Matt Gaetz ‘Wingman’ Joel Greenberg Pleads Guilty

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) listens during a committee hearing

Matt Gaetz’s longtime friend and partner in alleged crimes Joel Greenberg has pleaded guilty to six of the charges against him: identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, conspiracy to bribe a public official, and sex trafficking of a minor.

While all of those crimes are incredibly serious, that last one carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison. All combined, Greenberg’s sentence could potentially be decades longer. He will also have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution and register as a sex offender.

Things could have been worse for him, though. As part of the plea deal, he was able to have the other twenty-seven charges he was facing dropped.

In exchange, Greenberg has agreed to offer “substantial assistance” in future federal investigations. While Gaetz’s name isn’t explicitly mentioned in the court documents, it seems pretty likely that Gaetz will be one of those investigations, seeing as it began as an offshoot from Greenberg’s investigation.

Gaetz is reportedly being investigated for possibly having sex with the same underage girl Greenberg just confessed to trafficking. And while he didn’t name names in these documents, Greenberg admitted that he “introduced the minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts.”

Gaetz continues to deny any wrongdoing and so far, he hasn’t been charged with any crimes. He did, however, send Greenberg a number of payments via Venmo, in the same amounts that Greenberg then sent to young women, and there are numerous reports of Gaetz and Greenberg partying and traveling with young women, including one increasingly notorious trip to the Bahamas.

Gaetz also reportedly used to describe Greenberg to at least one acquaintance as his “wingman.”

But Gaetz is continuing to make light of the alleged content of the investigation into him. Just this weekend, he compared the allegations to the return of political earmarks.

“I’m being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors,” Gaetz said at the Ohio Political Summit. “Yet, Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that that’s the corruption.”

In fact, Gaetz is not being accused of paying for “naughty favors.” He is being accused of–among many, many other things–paying for sex with a minor and possibly paying to take that minor across state lines for the purposes of having sex with her–aka sex trafficking.

Earmarks, meanwhile, allow lawmakers to allocate funds to certain projects or issues that can directly affect their constituents. They earned a bad reputation after some high-profile scandals in the early 2000s involving politicians abusing secret earmarks, but they’re back with a number of safeguards in place to prevent that sort of corruption moving forward.

Matt Gaetz continues to choose the strangest straws to grab at and his very weak brand of whataboutism isn’t distracting anyone the way he probably hopes it is.

(via New York Times, Axios, image: Drew Angerer/GettyImages)

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