() — Once again, the Department of Justice has been accused of putting politics above equal justice under the law. But this time, the accusation stemmed from the DOJ not prosecuting a prominent Republican.
Despite two years of headlines suggesting otherwise, it now seems Congressman Matt Gaetz will not be charged after an investigation into whether the congressman paid for sex with a then-17-year-old girl.
Now, a Florida lawyer who provided the DOJ mountains of evidence as part of a plea deal for his client, Gaetz’s former pal Joel Greenberg, is fuming in a court filing Monday night. The attorney wrote a scathing rebuke to the DOJ comparing their alleged inaction, to “Nero fiddling away as Rome burns.”
The dramatic filing from Fritz Scheller, the lawyer representing Greenberg, suggests the DOJ is giving Gaetz a pass because of who he is: “Why hasn’t the Department of Justice prosecuted the other individuals including public figures who were also involved in Greenberg’s offenses?”
Indeed, Greenberg’s plea agreement refers to the involvement of multiple co-conspirators, including individuals involved in his sex offense. Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, Florida and one-time friend of Gaetz, pleaded guilty last year to sex trafficking of a minor and a host of other crimes as part of a cooperation deal with authorities.
After agreeing to testify for the government, Scheller was confident in April of last year that Gaetz would be sitting at a defense table.
“Based on what my client knows, I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” he said.
Joel Greenberg clearly flipped on his old friend Gaetz. But it turns out, he also wasn’t a particularly credible witness and he would have been at the heart of any case against Gaetz.
According to The Washington Post, the Justice Department’s superiors were told “that a conviction is unlikely due to credibility questions with the two central witnesses.”
Many of the left leaning media had presumed that Gaetz, a fierce right wing partisan, who they dislike, would inevitably be prosecuted.
The investigation, which was launched by Bill Barr’s Justice Department, was not a political hit.
But here’s the point. Few on both sides want to say maybe, just maybe, this is another case where the justice system worked, a case that was opened legitimately based on witness accounts. If there wasn’t enough evidence to prove a case, I get that doesn’t lead to the lifeblood of cable news outrage, but it also may be the reality.
Gaetz had repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying he never paid for sex and the only time he ever had sex with a 17-year-old was when he was also 17.
A federal grand jury in Orlando heard testimony, including from an ex-girlfriend who was among several women on a trip Gaetz allegedly took to the Bahamas in 2018. That trip had been of particular interest to investigators.
But here’s the point. The allegations against Matt Gaetz were not made by corrupt FBI agents or prosecutors, which appears to be the default position for many on the far right. And they likely didn’t avoid prosecuting him because he’s a prominent Republican, as was suggested in the filing Monday night, and as some liberals are now claiming.
Every day, prosecutors and police have to make tough charging decisions based on evidence presented to them. While many on both sides try to make cases, the reality is often far less headline grabbing and should be more reassuring to all of us.
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