May 17, 2021
They say you can’t run from your problems, but if you’re Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz, you sure can try!
On Monday, the same day Gaetz’s longtime party buddy and self-described “wingman” Joel Greenberg pleaded guilty in an Orlando courthouse to six of the 33 felony counts he faced, Gaetz was busy desperately hyping his upcoming “America First” rally in Mesa, Arizona, some 1,700 miles away from his home district. And while Gaetz has been steadfast in his denial of any criminal wrongdoing, Greenberg’s guilty plea and pledge to cooperate with federal prosecutors, is undeniably bad news for the congressman, who is reportedly under investigation himself for many of the same crimes to which Greenberg just confessed.
While Gaetz is not mentioned by name in the massive plea agreement signed by Greenberg, the Arizona stop of his traveling MAGA circus wasn’t nearly enough to distract from the obvious legal peril Greenberg’s decision represents.
“Does my client have information that could hurt an elected official?” Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, told the press after the guilty plea was officially entered Monday. “I guess this is must-see television. You’ll just have to wait and see.”
Greenberg, a former Florida county tax collector, was accused of sex trafficking, including of a minor, as well as of other offenses like fraud, identity theft, and bribery, per CNN. Among the charges he pleaded guilty to included knowingly soliciting sex and paying for sex from a minor. To punctuate the overwhelming sense that Greenberg’s plea was bad news for Gaetz, Scheller’s press conference was briefly interrupted by an airplane dragging a banner reading “tick tock Matt Gaetz” circling overhead.
Asked whether he still stood by his assertion last month that “Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable,” Scheller was frustratingly cryptic, explaining that “last time we talked, I had a certain agenda, which I accomplished.” He added: “This time, I will leave that up to Matt Gaetz’s attorneys to answer for Matt Gaetz.”
According to CNN, Greenberg’s sex charge alone carries a minimum of 10 years in prison — a significant sentence that could be dramatically reduced based in part on how helpful Greenberg’s cooperation with federal prosecutors ends up being.
Fueled by the possibility of a lighter sentence, it’s hard to imagine Greenberg wouldn’t offer up his alleged sex party pal to prosecutors, particularly given the abundance of already public evidence that connects Gaetz to both Greenberg, and a number of young whom Greenberg allegedly paid for sex. One of the women was reportedly underage at the time of one of her alleged encounters with Gaetz.
So enjoy Arizona while you can, Matt. Because if Greenberg’s plea deal really is as bad for you as it seems like it could be, it might be a long time before you’re allowed to cross state lines again.