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Gaetz ‘wingman’ gets new sentencing date

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A convicted former Florida tax official and one-time close associate with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) will be sentenced in December, a date that comes after he spent more than a year cooperating with federal investigators.

Former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg will learn his fate during a Dec. 1 sentencing hearing that comes after U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell agreed to delay sentencing as he cooperates with prosecutors looking into Gaetz and the wider array of scandal that emerged from their initial investigation into Greenberg’s time in office.

At Greenberg’s request, the judge has agreed to delay his sentencing multiple times. Prosecutors have not objected to the delays, indicating that Greenberg is continuing to cooperate with the government and is providing information considered useful.

Greenberg, whom Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg called a “prolific criminal,” pleaded guilty to six charges, including sex trafficking a minor and a handful related to public corruption. He faced a minimum 12-year sentence, but it’s unclear how that could be affected by his cooperation with federal investigators. Greenberg originally faced 33 federal charges but cut a deal with prosecutors to drop dozens after he agreed to cooperate.

Gaetz, who once referred to Greenberg as his “wingman,” has been under federal investigation since November 2020 over whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid her for it. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing and has not faced any charges associated with the probe.

The lengthy investigation has hung over Gaetz and provided fodder for political rivals, but it’s unclear whether federal prosecutors will charge the brash Panhandle Republican and former Florida state lawmaker, even as the completion of Greenberg’s cooperation and his finalized sentencing date is likely to put Gaetz in a renewed spotlight.

Indictments of any member of Congress are generally approved personally by the attorney general, which could play a factor because of the ongoing 2022 primaries.

The Justice Department will often try not to press charges in the middle of an election cycle to avoid the appearance it is playing campaign trail politics.