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DOJ will not charge Matt Gaetz

By Ben Marquis
|
February 16, 2023

For the past few years, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL-01) has been under a dark cloud of a federal investigation into allegations of sex trafficking and sex with a minor – unproven allegations against the outspoken firebrand conservative that many Democrats were convinced were completely true.

That dark cloud has now lifted, and many of those same Democrats are now infuriated after it was revealed on Wednesday that the Justice Department would not be pursuing any criminal charges against Gaetz, the Daily Wire reported.

In a statement to the outlet, the Florida congressman's office said, "The Department of Justice has confirmed to Congressman Gaetz’s attorneys that their investigation has concluded and that he will not be charged with any crimes."

No charges will be filed

CNN was the first to report on Wednesday that federal prosecutors had reached out to attorneys for Rep. Gaetz as well as the alleged witnesses against him to inform them of the decision to not bring any criminal charges against the congressman.

That decision was reportedly made by senior DOJ leadership after investigators had informed prosecutors last year that they had recommended against charging Gaetz with any sort of crime.

Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner, a pair of attorneys representing Gaetz, told CNN in a statement, "We have just spoken with the DOJ and have been informed that they have concluded their investigation into Congressman Gaetz and allegations related to sex trafficking and obstruction of justice and they have determined not to bring any charges against him."

The outlet also received similar word from the attorneys of witnesses against the congressman, including an ex-girlfriend who had previously testified before a grand jury, as well as former associates who had become embroiled in the alleged scandal and faced potential charges of their own.

Investigation of allegations began in 2020

CBS News reported that the federal investigation into Rep. Gaetz, which began in late 2020, had been headed toward a prosecution on charges related to sex trafficking of a minor, paid sex with a minor, and obstruction of justice, which stemmed from allegations that he'd had sex years earlier with a 17-year-old girl – allegations that Gaetz has consistently and firmly denied.

At the center of that probe was a former Florida county tax collector named Joel Greenberg, who was alleged to have first introduced Gaetz to the underage girl, but who was facing numerous serious criminal charges of his own and ultimately pleaded guilty to six federal charges in 2021.

Another focus of the investigation was a 2018 trip to the Bahamas in which it was alleged that several girls, some over 18 and others underage, had been trafficked across state and international lines and been paid to have sex with Gaetz and others who had accompanied him on that trip.

CBS News also noted that Gaetz's ex-girlfriend had been granted immunity from potential prosecution for other undisclosed alleged crimes in exchange for her grand jury testimony against the congressman, and had been viewed as a key witness who would help prosecutors convict Gaetz.

Serious credibility problems with two main witnesses

The DOJ’s decision to not pursue criminal charges against Rep. Gaetz comes five months after  investigators and career prosecutors had recommended against it.

Indeed, The Washington Post reported in Sept. 2022 that the recommendation against charges was due to "credibility questions with the two central witnesses" and a determination that a conviction would likely be unattainable.

The first of those two witnesses was the ex-girlfriend, who as noted was supposed to be a star witness against the congressman, but who prosecutors deemed had "issues" with her testimony that likely "would not pass muster with a jury."

The other main witness was Greenberg, but given the fact that his 2021 convictions involved charges of "fabricating allegations and evidence to smear a political opponent," as well as theft from the tax collector's office and fraud involving pandemic relief loans, not to mention that he only agreed to cooperate against Gaetz in exchange for more than two dozen other charges being dropped, it was similarly determined that his testimony would not be believable.

Gaetz's opponents disappointed

That the Florida congressman will not face prosecution likely comes as a disappointment to those in the House who have been vocal in their opposition to his remaining in the lower chamber.

Whether Gaetz will be able to secure another term despite this legal reprieve, only time will tell.