Florida politician Matt Gaetz frequently shows up in the news. In the past few years, he’s been closely tied to Donald Trump and known to follow Trump’s strategy of making a scene to keep his name in the news.
But on March 30th, 2021, Gaetz made the news in a way he probably didn’t anticipate or enjoy.
On that day, The New York Times broke the story that Matt Gaetz is under investigation for violating federal sex trafficking laws. Since the story broke, Gaetz and his legal entanglements have been steadily making headlines.
The series of events have left many wondering how serious the case against Matt Gaetz is. Let’s look into the possible legal ramifications for the Florida politician.
Who Is Matt Gaetz?
Matthew Louis Gaetz II, 39, represents the 1st Florida District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is currently serving his third term. He previously served in the Florida House of Representatives for the 4th District.
Gaetz is currently under federal investigation for two crimes: sex trafficking and obstruction of justice.
Potential Crime #1) Sex Trafficking
According to The New York Times, a federal sex trafficking investigation into Gaetz was opened during the Trump Administration when William P. Barr was acting Attorney General.
The Justice Department’s Citizen’s Guide To U.S. Federal Law On Child Sex Trafficking defines the federal offense as, “to knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, or maintain a minor (defined as someone under 18 years of age) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the victim is a minor and would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act.”
It illegal to bring someone under the age of 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value.
The investigation is looking into whether Gaetz paid for a 17-year-old to travel across state lines to engage in sexual relations.
Gaetz is being investigated along with his political ally and former Seminole County tax collector, Joel Greenberg, for the incident which is said to have happened two years ago. It is suspected that Greenberg recruited the girl online and that Gaetz paid for her travel.
Greenberg was officially indicted last summer.
On May 17th, 2021, Greenberg resolved his case with a plea deal. As reported by USA Today, Greenberg pled guilty to six of 33 federal charges. The charges included:
- Sex trafficking a minor
- Creating a fake ID
- Identity theft
- Wire fraud
- Conspiracy to bribe a public official
Part of Greenburg’s plea deal says he will provide “substantial assistance” as a witness for other investigations. Since the same girl is involved in both the Greenberg and Gaetz cases, the witness statements Greenberg provides may offer additional insights into the Gaetz case.
Gaetz has denied all accusations and has not been charged.
If charged and convicted, Gaetz could face the consequences outlined by the Citizen’s Guide To U.S. Federal Law On Child Sex Trafficking which states, “If the victim was aged 14-17, the penalty shall not be less than 10 years in prison up to life.”
Potential Crime #2) Obstruction of Justice
The second federal crime Gaetz faces relates to obstructing justice.
Federal obstruction of justice is defined under 18 U.S.C. § 1503 as an act that, “corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.” The Justice Department’s Citizen’s Guide To U.S. Federal Law On Child Sex Trafficking also includes language that increases the severity of consequences if obstruction occurs in a child sex trafficking case.
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether obstruction of justice occurred when Gatez reportedly spoke to a girl involved in the sex trafficking investigation.
Gaetz is said to have talked on the phone to a girl who is a witness, as reported by Politico. If Gaetz told the witness to lie or give misleading testimony, it could be considered obstruction of justice.
Gaetz has denied all wrongdoing and has not officially been charged.
If charged and convicted, Gaetz could face the consequences as outlined by the Citizen’s Guide To U.S. Federal Law On Child Sex Trafficking which states, “Anyone who obstructs or attempts to obstruct the enforcement of this statute faces as many as 20 years imprisonment.”
Will Matt Gaetz Face Serious Legal Charges?
Gaetz is still under investigation for both federal crimes. He is not currently facing official charges. If he faces charges will likely depend on what witnesses reveal. Prosecutors will need to find sufficient evidence to indict Gaetz and then convict him.
For now, he is free and clear of all charges.
Have you been involved in a criminal case? Do you need help understanding how serious the case against you is? Get answers and advice from a criminal defense attorney. Schedule your free consultation to talk to T.J. Grimaldi. Request your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.