Former Speaker Dennis Hastert Reaches Plea Deal In Banking Law/Sexual Misconduct Case
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who was indicted on charges that he structured withdrawals from his bank accounts to evade Federal reporting requirements, has apparently reached a plea deal with Federal prosecutors:
CHICAGO — J. Dennis Hastert, the small-town wrestling coach who rose to political power as the longest-serving Republican speaker of the House, intends to plead guilty as part of an agreement in a case where he is accused of skirting banking laws and lying to the federal investigators, according to proceedings Thursday in Federal District Court here.
A federal prosecutor told the court that the government expected a written plea agreement to be given to the judge on Monday. It has asked for a hearing on Oct. 28, at which Mr. Hastert is expected to change his plea to guilty from not guilty.
It was unclear what charges that Mr. Hastert would plead guilty to and what the sentence may be. Mr. Hastert did not appear in court.
Mr. Hastert, 73, was charged in May with structuring cash withdrawals, totaling $1.7 million, in a manner intended to avoid detection by banking officials, and then lying about the withdrawals to the federal authorities. The seven-page indictment laid out a pattern of clandestine meetings and bank withdrawals.
The indictment said the withdrawals were used to “compensate for and conceal” earlier “misconduct” against a person identified only as “Individual A.” Unidentified government sources said that the money was used to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct with a male student during Mr. Hastert’s time as a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Ill.. Mr. Hastert has not been charged with any sex crimes, and the identity of the person he is accused of paying remains unknown.
Last month, lawyers for the prosecution and for Mr. Hastert said in federal court that they were discussing a plea agreement and asked the judge, Thomas M. Durkin of Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, for more time to file pretrial motions. Legal experts said that given the nature of the charges and the evidence laid out in the indictment, it appeared likely that Mr. Hastert would pursue a plea deal rather than endure a trial.
Shortly after Hastert was indicted, reports began to leak out that the payments that were made were related to allegations of sexual misconduct involving a student during the time that Hastert was a coach and teacher. After those reports came out, additional stories of alleged misconduct on Hastert’s part began to leak out and it became apparent that if the case went to trial at least some detail regarding those allegations would have to be made public in order for the prosecution to prove its case. By pleading guilty, Hastert avoids the embarrassment of that happening as well as the cost of a trial that he most likely would have lost anyway given the fact that the indictment appears to set forth a fairly solid case against him and the lack of any real defenses to the conduct he engaged in. While it’s unclear what sentence Hastert may end up with as a result of the deal, if he had gone to trial and been convicted he most likely would have gotten a much worse sentence than whatever it is that he is agreeing to.
This may not be the end of the matter for Hastert, of course, since it’s possible that past students could pursue civil or criminal claims against him in the future, but at least as far as this case is concerned it would appear that the former Speaker has dodged a bullet.