The federal investigation into whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her trip began last year and grew out of the Greenberg investigation.
“We believe this case will be a plea,” Federal Prosecutor Roger Handberg said at the start of the brief hearing. “My hope would be for it to be done this month.”
Scheller agreed that his client was looking to deal. “I expect this case to be resolved through a plea,” the defense attorney said moments later.
However, Scheller said he doubted the details of the deal could be clarified by the end of April.
“I don’t think it’s realistic that the plea will be resolved this month,” Scheller told the judge.
The brief hearing lasted less than 10 minutes and lawyers did not mention Gaetz by name. The exchange, however, strongly suggested that Greenberg is likely to help the lawsuit.
The new development signals potentially serious problems for Gaetz, as prosecutors now have someone close to the congressman apparently willing to provide an insider account of his activities. This information and perspective can be vital in providing context to the financial and travel cases that prosecutors are known to scrutinize.
Greenberg, however, could have credibility issues as a witness if he takes a stand against Gaetz because the former tax collector faces separate charges of having had sex with a minor and having falsely accused a rival of pedophile.
During the hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Presnell said he would move a potential trial from June to July, in case the current talks between Greenberg and prosecutors do not work out. But the judge seemed happy that the case now seems unlikely to go to trial.
“I must also take into account the possibility that there is a stalemate,” said the judge. “I hope there won’t be a problem and the advocacy is resolved.”
Presnell ordered the two sides to report to him by May 15 to see if they had reached a deal.
A friendly and relaxed atmosphere prevailed between prosecutors and Greenberg’s attorney ahead of the hearing, with attorneys for both sides moving at one point to a corner of the courtroom to meet outside the courtroom. reach of journalists seated in the gallery.
Greenberg, who is currently in a county jail, was not present for the hearing Thursday. Presnell, a person appointed by President Bill Clinton, said Greenberg’s presence was not required.
Speaking to reporters after the court session, Scheller remained cautious about whether his client provided information about Gaetz to federal prosecutors. But the defense attorney said of Greenberg: “He’s in a unique position.”
Scheller also said plea talks with the government were underway before the latest indictment was filed against Greenberg last month and that the new charges were not surprising to him and his client.
Gaetz, a stalwart of Trump, claimed he was the victim of a brazen extortion attempt linked to the investigation and was targeted by his political enemies.
However, the Republican congressman admitted that he sometimes paid for the travel and other expenses of the women he had dated, apparently giving prosecutors food to examine whether any of his funds had gone to funds. girls under 18 at the time.
POLITICO reported Tuesday that friends of the men say Greenberg introduced Gaetz to the women Greenberg found through profiles on websites like Seeking Arrangement, which feature women looking for “sugar daddy” relationships with women. rich men.
“I never paid for sex,” Gaetz said in a text message to POLITICO.
Paying for sex would normally be a state crime, not a federal crime. However, it is a federal offense to have people cross state borders into prostitution. Using the internet and interstate phone calls to organize such an activity could also be charged federally, with higher penalties if minors are involved.
While details of Greenberg’s potential deal with prosecutors were not made clear in court, such deals typically require cooperation with the government and a promise to testify against other potential defendants. In return, prosecutors would likely drop many of the 33 felony charges against the former tax collector in a replacement indictment released last week.
Such a move would reduce the maximum jail time Greenberg could face. Also, his sentencing would likely be postponed after his cooperation – and the potential testimony against the others is over.