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Associate of Matt Gaetz expected to plead guilty, lawyers say

▶ Watch Video: Matt Gaetz associate expected to plead guilty in sex trafficking case

A former Florida tax collector linked to the Justice Department’s investigation into Congressman Matt Gaetz is expected to plead guilty, lawyers in the case said in court on Thursday. Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois on Thursday night became the first Republican to call on Gaetz to resign after new allegations surfaced in The Daily Beast, the details of which CBS News has not independently confirmed. 

Joel Greenberg is expected to strike a deal by May 15, though the deal has not yet been finalized, his attorney, Fritz Scheller, said Thursday.

Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector, has been charged with dozens of offenses, including sex trafficking, stalking, bribery and defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program. CBS News has confirmed that the ongoing investigation into Greenberg is what spurred the investigation into Gaetz.

Greenberg’s trial has been pushed to July, although the prosecutor said at the onset of Thursday’s hearing that “we believe this case is going to be a plea.” 

According to CBS Orlando affiliate WKMG, Scheller was asked whether the possible involvement of Gaetz in the investigation gave his client an advantage in plea negotiations. Scheller answered that if Greenberg accepts a plea agreement, “it will show his sense of remorse — which he does have — a sense of acceptance of responsibility. Number 2, I think he’s uniquely situated.”

Scheller also told reporters after the court appearance “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.” He later clarified that given the focus on the connection between Gaetz and Greenberg, it “wouldn’t be obvious to assume that he would be concerned, you know, some.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) (2nd R) leaves a GOP meeting at the U.S. Capitol on February 03, 2021 in Washington, DC. Ten House Republicans voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

Gaetz, a close ally of former President Trump, has has been accused of having a relationship with a 17-year-old and is believed to be under investigation for violations of sex trafficking laws. He has denied all the allegations and has so far not been charged with any crimes. 

One of Gaetz’s aides, Devin Murphy, resigned in recent days, a source familiar with the situation confirmed on Thursday. The source was told that it was due to the Justice Department investigation, but also that Murphy was looking to leave before it became public. Gaetz’s communications director resigned last week. 

On Wednesday, CBS News reported that as part of the inquiry into whether Gaetz violated sex-trafficking laws, federal investigators are looking into a Bahamas trip he allegedly took in late 2018 or early 2019.

In a statement to CBS News on Wednesday, Gaetz’s office said he “has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl. What began with blaring headlines about ‘sex trafficking’ has now turned into a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults. Yesterday, we even learned of some nonsense ‘pardon’ story that turned out to be false, and today it’s just more euphemism. It’s interesting to watch the Washington wheels grinding so hard every time one of their falsehoods gets knocked down.”

CBS News has also confirmed that Gaetz asked the White House for a preemptive blanket pardon before Mr. Trump left office. The former president said in a statement Thursday “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” though he did not address whether the White House had fielded such a request from Gaetz. 

The Florida congressman is expected to give his first public remarks since the news of the investigation on Friday at a Women for America First event. 



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