Justice Department won’t charge Matt Gaetz for sex trafficking

Justice Department officials have said they will not seek sex trafficking charges against Florida Representative Matt Gaetz after a multi-year probe into whether he violated US law by allegedly paying for sex with underage girls.

Citing “a source familiar with the matter,” CNN reported on Wednesday that the department had informed a witness who testified in the probe that charges against the Florida Republican would not be forthcoming. The congressman’s office told The Wall Street Journal that the DOJ “confirmed to Congressman Gaetz’s attorneys that their investigation has concluded and that he will not be charged with any crimes”.

The investigation into Mr Gaetz arose out of a separate probe into Joel Greenberg, a former friend and associate of the congressman who pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes last year and is currently serving an 11-year sentence in prison.

Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, which included sex trafficking of a minor, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official, according to court records.

The former Seminole County tax collector likely avoided a more substantial prison sentence due to his cooperation with authorities in other criminal investigations. At Greenberg’s sentencing, his lawyer said he’d provided cooperation and assistance to prosecutors in 24 separate criminal cases, eight of which were filed against defendants who were accused of sex crimes. His lawyer also said four federal indictments arose from Greenberg’s cooperation with authorities.

Mr Gaetz has long denied any wrongdoing and has said he regrets his friendship with Greenberg. In an interview with a local ABC News station last year, he said his opinion of his former friend changed after he became aware of his crimes.

"When I became aware of some of Greenberg’s misdeeds, I deeply regretted my friendship with him," he said. "I do believe that it’s fair for the people of northwest Florida to judge me based on the associations that I’ve had, and I deeply regret my association with Joel Greenberg politically, socially, and otherwise."