Ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert in plea negotations

29 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dennis Hastert and Prosecutors in Talks to Settle Criminal Case.

CHICAGO—Lawyers for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert are in talks with federal prosecutors to resolve pending criminal charges against him without a trial. The discussions were disclosed Monday at a hearing in federal court in Chicago. “I would characterize our discussions as linear and productive,” said John Gallo, a lawyer for Mr. The Associated Press and other media, citing anonymous sources, have reported the payments were intended to conceal claims of sexual misconduct decades ago. “We are seeing if we can resolve this case generally,” Hastert’s attorney, John Gallo, told U.S. Hastert, a Republican from Illinois who served in the House for 20 years, is accused of making multiple cash withdrawals in increments just under $10,000 in an attempt to prevent bank officials from reporting the transactions.

The alleged evasion drew the attention of investigators who say the former speaker had agreed in 2010 to pay a total of $3.5 million to a person known only as “Individual A” to keep quiet about certain misconduct. Attorney Steven Block said prosecutors “absolutely do not agree with the motion.” Hastert did not attend the hearing at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. The indictment does not detail the alleged misconduct, and both prosecutors and defense attorneys have taken steps to keep the information confidential.

Veteran defense attorney Michael Ettinger said Hastert’s team is probably trying to avoid jail time for their client and limit the number of embarrassing details released in any plea agreement. Green, argued that the allegations in the media of past sexual misconduct — which he blamed on government leaks — had presented a quandary for the defense. Federal prosecutors unveiled an indictment in May that charged Hastert with skirting banking laws and lying to the FBI as part of an alleged $3.5 million hush-money scheme.

He said it could undermine Hastert’s right to a fair trial. “The indictment has effectively been amended by leaks from the government,” Green said at a July hearing. “(It) is now an 800-pound gorilla in this case.” Green, a nationally prominent Washington-based attorney, told the judge he was stumped about whether to ignore the sexual misconduct allegations as he prepared for trial. It’s unclear if claims not in the indictment would have had any relevance at a trial, during which prosecutors would likely have focused narrowly on mundane aspects of U.S. banking law. They are discussing a resolution of the case without going to trial, including negotiating a possible plea agreement, according to a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

Hastert lawyer Thomas Green has since called leaks to the media “unconscionable.” While Hastert’s indictment is vague, embarrassing details could spill out if the case goes to trial.

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