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First on CNN: DOJ officially decides not to charge Matt Gaetz in sex-trafficking probe

<i>CNN</i><br/>The Justice Department will not bring charges against Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz after a years-long federal sex-trafficking investigation.
CNN
The Justice Department will not bring charges against Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz after a years-long federal sex-trafficking investigation.

By Paula Reid and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN

The Justice Department has informed lawyers for Rep. Matt Gaetz and multiple witnesses that it will not bring charges against the Florida Republican after a yearslong federal sex-trafficking investigation.

Senior officials reached out to lawyers for multiple witnesses on Wednesday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, to inform them of the decision not to prosecute Gaetz.

The final decision was made by Department of Justice leadership after investigators recommended against charges last year.

“We have just spoken with the DOJ and have been informed that they have concluded their investigation into Congressman Gaetz and allegations related to sex trafficking and obstruction of justice and they have determined not to bring any charges against him,” Gaetz’s lawyers, Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner, said in a statement.

Tim Jansen, a high-powered lawyer representing the congressman’s ex-girlfriend, said that DOJ officials reached out to him Wednesday and told him they would not be charging Gaetz. The ex-girlfriend was a key witness in the case and had testified before the grand jury in Orlando last year.

The congressman’s office said in a separate statement that the department informed them the investigation has ended and no charges will be brought.

The DOJ’s formal decision not to charge Gaetz, who has been serving in Congress since 2017, marks the end of a long-running investigation into allegations that the congressman violated federal law by paying for sex, including with women who were younger than 18 years old.

Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors working on the case recommended against charging Gaetz in September, in part, because of questions over whether central witnesses in the investigation would be perceived as credible before a jury, CNN reported at the time.

But the final decision not to move forward with charges came from senior department officials. The DOJ declined to comment.

The investigation into Gaetz began in late 2020 under then-Attorney General Bill Barr, but ramped up significantly after Gaetz’s close friend, Joel Greenberg, pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, including a sex-trafficking charge, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Greenberg’s cooperation led investigators to look at Gaetz, along with other allies of Greenberg, for any alleged sex trafficking or obstruction of justice.

The investigation also scrutinized several Gaetz associates including Dr. Jason Pirozzolo, who accompanied Gaetz on a 2018 trip to the Bahamas that was a key focus of investigators. Pirozzolo was pushed out of his medical practice after his name surfaced in some reports about the investigation.

In a statement, his attorney, David Haas, said, “Today we were informed by the Department of Justice that it is ending its investigation… Dr. Pirozzolo requests that he and his family’s privacy be respected as the last few years have been extremely difficult to endure.”

Two other people in Gaetz’s orbit also became key cooperators, including the ex-girlfriend who worked on Capitol Hill and has been linked to Gaetz as far back as the summer of 2017, and a Florida radio host who began cooperating after pleading guilty in a separate bribery scheme.

Then, by late 2022, there were several signs that the Justice Department’s case had nearly ground to a halt. The most obvious indicator was that prosecutors finally agreed to schedule a sentencing date for Greenberg after months of delays while he continued to cooperate with the ongoing Gaetz probe.

Greenberg was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December.

This story has been updated with additional details Wednesday.

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