In an apparent sign of sign of “the complex and high-stakes nature of the inquiry” into whether Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz sex-trafficked a minor, the Department of Justice has added two high-level prosecutors from Washington to the case.
The Washington-based prosecutors recently joined a team of authorities in Florida who’ve been looking into whether Gaetz violated federal law by providing goods or payments to a 17-year-old girl in exchange for sex, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Gaetz has not yet been charged and has denied wrongdoing. His alleged “wingman,” former tax collector Joel Greenberg, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking the same 17-year-old girl, and is cooperating with the DOJ’s investigation.
According to the Times, the Washington prosecutors’ expertise includes “dealing with children who have been exploited but may not see themselves as having been victimized, which can complicate trials if they are called as witnesses.”
Amanda Kramer, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who supervised sex trafficking cases for a decade, told the Times that legally, the victim’s state of mind is not a factor juries should consider when determining whether laws were violated.
“Technically, the government needs only to prove that the child was underage when the sexual activity occurred and that the child received something of value in exchange for it,” the Times reports. “But, Ms. Kramer said, the defense could try to use such witness testimony to confuse the jury or sour the legitimacy of the prosecution, although many judges would most likely shut down such a line of questioning.”
Kramer told the NYT: “It’s not uncommon for teens who have been trafficked to view themselves as willing participants and not as victims, often as a result of psychological manipulation by their traffickers. That’s one of many dynamics that make sex trafficking cases challenging for prosecutors, but it’s far from fatal to the case.”
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‘Bags and Bags’ of Money Found Stashed in Bathroom Wall at Joel Osteen’s Megachurch: Report
A plumbing repair at televangelist Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston reportedly led to the discovery of “bags and bags” of cash and checks in a bathroom wall.
The discovery came several years after someone stole $600,000 in cash and checks from a safe at Osteen’s Lakewood Church, according to a report from KRPC Channel 2. The station suggested that whoever stole the money in 2014 may have hidden it in the bathroom wall.
A plumber named Justin, who works for a large contractor, told the station he got a call about a loose toilet at the church on Nov. 10.
“Justin said he started working on the toilet and had to remove the tile and insulation,” the station reports. “Once he removed the insulation, he discovered about 3,000 envelopes full of checks. Some had cash in it. Justin said he called the church’s maintenance supervisor and had to stay at the church for almost seven hours.”
Houston police investigators later questioned Justin and removed the rest of the wall, discovering “bags and bags” of money and checks.
“Justin said the church or HPD never thanked him or reached out to him about $25,000 reward money,” the station reported, referring to the reward that was offered following the 2014 theft. “Justin said he even called Crime Stoppers about reward money, but never heard back. He even tried reaching out to Joel Osteen but hasn’t heard back.”
A representative from the church confirmed the discovery in a statement.
“Recently, while repair work was being done at Lakewood Church, an undisclosed amount of cash and checks were found,” the church representative said. “Lakewood immediately notified the Houston Police Department and is assisting them with their investigation. Lakewood has no further comment at this time.”
In 2014, Houston police said $200,000 in cash and $400,000 worth of checks were stolen from a safe at the church. At the time, the church said the stolen money represented funds that were contributed during one weekend of services.
Watch KPRC’s report below.
Jan 6 Committee to Vote on Criminal Referral of Uncooperative Trump DOJ Official Jeffrey Clark
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has announced it will vote on holding Trump-era Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark in contempt.
“According to a report released last week by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, there is credible evidence that, while serving as an official at the Department of Justice, Mr. Clark was involved in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power. Mr. Clark proposed delivery of a letter to state legislators in Georgia and others encouraging to delay certification of election results. Moreover, he recommended holding a press conference announcing that the Department was investigating allegations of voter fraud despite the lack of evidence that such fraud was present. Both proposals were rejected by Department senior leadership for lacking a factual basis and being inconsistent with the Department’s institutional role,” the committee announced on October 13.
➡️ Wednesday, December 1st at 7:00 PM
The Select Committee will vote on a report recommending that the House of Representatives cite Jeffrey Clark for criminal contempt of Congress and refer him for prosecution.
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) November 29, 2021
Marjorie Taylor Greene Wants to Award Congressional Gold Medal to Rittenhouse
A new bill was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to award Kyle Rittenhouse the Congressional Gold Medal for “protecting the community of Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) riot on August 25, 2020.”
Rittenhouse was acquitted last week of all charges, including intentional homicide, stemming from a fatal shooting that involved two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A third protester sustained injuries from the incident.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor Congress can award an individual or institution, but it’s unlikely to go anywhere as there are currently zero co-sponsors.
“Kyle Rittenhouse deserves to be remembered as a hero who defended his community, protected businesses, and acted lawfully in the face of lawlessness. I’m proud to file this legislation to award Kyle Rittenhouse a Congressional Gold Medal,” Greene said in a statement.
Not to be outdone, a spokesperson for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who has offered Rittenhouse an internship with his office, told The Washington Post in response to Greene’s bill, “We are concerned that awarding Kyle with a Congressional Gold Medal will give him a big head during the internship with our office.”
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