Facing charges in connection to revelations that U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert lied to the FBI about attempted bank withdrawals that were part of an attempt to pay hush money for misconduct performed during his time as a high school teacher, Hastert on Wednesday pleaded guilty to one count which carries a max sentence of five years.
Federal prosecutor Steven Block has recommended that Hastert serve zero to six months in federal prison. The judge will make the final decision on February 29. By reaching a guilty plea, Hastert may now be able to stop from having embarrassing details why he paid $3.5 million to an unknown individual from Yorksville, Illinois, the town where he worked as a high school teacher and wrestling coach before entering the political arena.
The indictment refers to the “wrongdoing” by Hastert as prior misconduct against someone referenced as “Individual A” but did not reveal any details. According to a source close to CNN told the network that Hastert was paying a former student to stay quiet about allegations of sexual abuse from when he was the wrestling coach.
Hastert was charged with lying to FBI investigators about his payment plan for “Individual A” and structuring bank transactions under 10,000 to avoid triggering federal reporting. Shortly after Hastert was indicted in May, a Montana woman named Jolene Burdge came forward with claims that Hastert had abused her brother, Steve Reinboldt, a Yorkville grad who died in 1995 of AIDS complications. Reinboldt, however, is not Individual A.
Hastert previously pleaded not guilty to all charges, but Hastert’s defense team entered negotiations with the Steven Block last month. The U.S. attorney’s office in for Northern Illinois released a statement that they will offer the court with information about Hastert’s background in order to ensure a fair sentence.
As part of the sentencing process in this case, as in all cases, we will provide the court with relevant information about the defendant’s background and the charged offenses, and the defendant will have an opportunity to do the same, so that the court can impose an appropriate sentence taking into account all relevant factors in the case.”
Hastert was speaker for eight years — longer than any other Republican. He also parlayed his connections into a lucrative lobbying career after leaving Congress in 2007. That career is almost certainly over. ..As a convicted felon, “no congressman will want to meet with him about anything. His influence and power will be gone,” said Dick Simpson, a co-author of “Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality.”
When the FBI asked about the withdrawals in December 2014, he allegedly lied and said he was keeping the cash, the indictment said. At the time, agents asked if he was withdrawing the money because he did not feel safe with the banking system, Hastert allegedly responded, “Yeah . . . I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.” The less-than-forthright answer appears to have helped lead to the fall of the politician who for nearly eight years was the third-highest ranking elected official in America. In the months ahead of the guilty plea, the ex-speaker’s lead attorney, Thomas Green, complained to Judge Thomas Durkin that leaks to the media about the nature of the alleged misconduct had put his client in untenable position.