When asked directly if Greenberg, a former local tax collector outside Orlando, was cooperating with prosecutors on the Gaetz case, Scheller cited attorney-client privilege. But he said Greenberg's cooperation would likely be contingent on whether it was required by prosecutors to get a plea deal.
“If someone signs a cooperation agreement, they are required to cooperate,” Scheller told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Orlando.
Scheller also refused to answer when asked if Greenberg had any incriminating evidence against Gaetz.
“I think if Mr. Greenberg accepts a plea agreement, he will want to show his sense of remorse, which he does have, and his sense of acceptance of responsibility," Scheller said. “He's uniquely situated."
Greenberg’s legal problems began last summer when he was arrested on charges of stalking a political opponent. Greenberg mailed fake letters to his opponent’s school signed by a nonexistent “very concerned student” who alleged the opponent had engaged in sexual misconduct with another student, according to an indictment from last June.
Last August, Greenberg was charged with sex trafficking a girl between ages 14 and 17 and using a state database to look up information about the girl and other people with whom he was engaged in “sugar daddy” relationships, according to an indictment.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Additional charges accusing Greenberg of embezzling $400,000 from the Seminole County Tax Collector's office were added last month, according to the indictment.
Greenberg had been scheduled to go to trial in Orlando in June.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell said Thursday that the trial would be pushed back to July if Greenberg is unable to reach a deal with prosecutors by the middle of next month.
Even before his arrest, Greenberg, 36, was a lightning rod for controversy.
He was elected Seminole County’s tax collector in 2016, promising to be a breath of fresh air against an incumbent who had been in office for almost three decades.
Months after taking office in 2017, he started allowing employees to carry guns. In late 2017, he pulled over a driver for speeding while wearing a tax collector badge that resembled a police shield. Local prosecutors declined to file charges of impersonating an officer. Not long after that, Greenberg was pulled over for speeding and asked not to be issued a ticket out of “professional courtesy.” The officer declined.
In 2018, Greenberg was widely criticized for posting an anti-Muslim tweet. A year later, the Orlando Sentinel revealed that Greenberg had spent $3.5 million in consultant contracts and salaries to friends and associates, including giving a combined $644,000 to three of his groomsmen and another $677,000 to a campaign adviser.
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FILE — In this Sept. 30, 2019, file photo, Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg talks to the Orlando Sentinel during an interview at his office in Lake Mary, Fla. Greenberg has been charged with trafficking a minor, stalking a political opponent, producing fake IDs, identity theft, embezzlement and bribery. But it's his friendship with U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz that is attracting the most attention now as federal investigators have launched a sex trafficking probe into the Republican congressman from the Florida Panhandle. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)
Credit: Joe Burbank
Credit: Joe Burbank