May 27, 2022

IMMUNITY: Key witness in Matt Gaetz sex trafficking case takes plea deal

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Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) just might be walking around in soiled underpants today as the news that “Big Joe” Ellicott — a local radio shock jock and the wingman of the Florida man’s convicted wingman —  has pleaded guilty in federal court to bribery and illicit drug sales charges and has agreed to cooperate in the sex trafficking investigation of the right-wing extremist Republican lawmaker.

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“Big” Joe “Ellicott knew intimate details about the teenage girl who was paid for sex by the group—and actually texted what essentially amounted to a confession that they were scrambling to try and cover up details about their sex with a 17-year-old from the feds.”

Now, he’s cooperating with prosecutors from the Department of Justice in the case against the North Florida Congressman. The Daily Beast wrote:

Unfortunately for Rep. Gaetz, Ellicott is apparently trying to save his own skin by reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors over charges that he agreed to “pay bribes and kickbacks” to a public official and that he separately conducted sales of the prescription stimulant Adderall illegally.

According to prosecutors, Ellicott worked as a go-between for Greenberg in collecting a $6,000 cash bribe from a contractor of the tax office run by his friend who, after receiving the kickback, then allowed the contractor to inflate invoices billed to the state and pocket the extra money.

Ellicott also reportedly sold more than $5,000 worth of Adderall to a single unnamed client throughout a two-year period. But those crimes pale in comparison to the significant public corruption crimes the former DJ witnessed, according to The Beast:

“This investigation had nothing to do with the sex scandal, but with the unprecedented things Greenberg was doing with the tax office. The big difference is that Joel Greenberg was elected to serve the people, and Joe was not. And the fact that this was done by criminal information not an indictment is pretty telling of how the prosecutors view him in this case,” said Ellicott’s lawyer, Joe Zwick.

While a plea hearing has been set for next month, Zwick finds significance in the fact that his client has not yet been arrested as part of the plea deal. “Obviously, they value his continued cooperation, as he does as well. We are going to set off sentencing as long as we can, and do everything we can to reduce his time,” he told The Beast who reported:

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“Ellicott’s plea agreement requires him to cooperate with the government in other prosecutions, including possibly testimony before the grand jury and in court. In exchange, Ellicott will not be formally charged by the grand jury, and has a shot at significantly reducing his sentence. He will also enjoy immunity from “any other federal offenses known to the U.S. Attorney’s Office” relating to the two crimes.”

Yet, Gaetz continues to declare his complete and total innocence of any of the accusations against him. But he’s having a really bad week after the then-17-year-old girlfriend whom he allegedly transported to the Bahamas for a sexual tryst testified under immunity before a federal grand jury investigating whether the Florida representative committed three distinct crimes: Sex trafficking the 17-year-old; violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking prostitutes across state lines; and obstructing justice.

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With the news of the latest person to offer to testify in the investigation, Gaetz’s future looks even more uncertain, despite his fervent denials of guilt.

And it doesn’t look like even his fabulously wealthy and former GOP legislator daddy is going to be able to stop it.

According to The Beast, today’s deal might not even protect Ellicott from the consequences of his friendship with Gaetz’s best friend Greenberg.

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You can read the charges that led to “Big Joe” Ellicott’s plea deal — and to Matt Gaetz’s tenuous legal position — in the document here.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter. 

Original reporting cited in this report is by Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger at The Daily Beast.

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Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.

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