UPDATE 1-Ex-US House Speaker Hastert expected to plead guilty in hush-money case

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dennis Hastert In Court for Expected Plea in Hush-Money Case.

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrived Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Chicago, where he is expected to plead guilty in his hush-money case after cutting a deal with prosecutors. The plea deal with federal prosecutors means Hastert will avoid a trial, along with potentially embarrassing details he allegedly was trying to keep under wraps. The once-powerful Republican is accused of making illegal bank withdrawals for payoffs to keep sexual misconduct allegations under wraps — and lying about it to the feds. An indictment accused him of agreeing to pay $3.5 million to someone referred to only as “Individual A” to hide past misconduct by Hastert against that person. The court papers did not accuse him of sexual abuse; instead, he was charged with structuring bank transactions to avoid triggering red flags and then lying about those cash withdrawals to the FBI.

When the FBI arrived at Hastert’s Plano estate on that Monday morning, he had already been questioned by banks about a series of unusual $50,000 cash withdrawals he had made two years earlier. Sources have said the hush money was meant to cover up allegations he sexually abused that student decades ago, while coaching wrestling at Yorkville High School. He took out the money because he agreed to pay a mystery man identified only as “Individual A” some $3.5 million in hush money to conceal “prior misconduct,” the indictment says.

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. Hastert faces up to 5 years in prison for each of the two counts of the indictment, but will probably serve only 6 months to 2 years because of the plea agreement. That has been kept a well-guarded secret despite a concerted attempt by media outlets across the country to confirm who was allegedly receiving the payments from Hastert. In addition, with such dry charges involved, the written plea agreement with prosecutors might not mention, let alone detail, Hastert’s underlying, allegedly sensational motive for paying Individual A.

Prosecutors are required only to present a factual basis for the charges and tell the judge what they intended to prove if the case had gone to trial. Both Hastert’s lawyers and the U.S. attorney’s office have declined to comment on the parameters of the agreement or whether there is a recommended sentence.

For the structuring count involving alleged evasion of currency-reporting requirements in the amount of $952,000, which is the total alleged in the indictment, federal guidelines would call for a range of 30 to 37 months in prison, assuming Hastert is credited for accepting responsibility, said Robert Loeb, a criminal defense attorney who has defended numerous bank structuring cases. The charges are usually secondary counts brought against drug dealers, gamblers and others accused of laundering large sums of money as part of some other illegal scheme — factors that don’t exist in Hastert’s case.

Hastert was dogged by scandal near the end of his term as speaker over the response of Republican leadership to improper advances toward underage male pages by then-Rep. In 2012, a Tribune investigation found that the former legislator had conducted private business ventures through a little-known, taxpayer-financed office. By that time, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service had launched an investigation into whether Hastert’s bank withdrawals were illegal, according to the indictment.

John’s lawyer, Michael Goldberg, told the Tribune on Tuesday that despite the coincidence in timing, he couldn’t say whether Johns’ allegations about Hastert’s finances had prompted the criminal probe. “I was shocked when Mr.

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