Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert learned Tuesday he will have to face two accusers at his sentencing later this month, and that efforts to mislead the FBI will be taken into consideration by the federal judge who will decide his fate.
Convicted of hatching an elaborate scheme to conceal a sordid past, Hastert also was rebuffed in federal court Wednesday in his apparent attempt to keep one last secret.
The former speaker's lawyers asked to file under seal their response to the probation department's recommendations for sentencing. That document, called a presentence report, or PSR, takes a variety of factors into account, including a defendant's family, social and medical history, his offenses and aggravating and mitigating factors. PSRs are never publicly released.
But Judge Thomas Durkin denied the request, maintaining there is nothing in the defense's response which is now or should be kept secret, and ruled the document should be unsealed immediately.
Hastert’s problems didn’t stop there. The judge also said he intends to consider, as an aggravating factor, Hastert’s attempts to mislead investigators, by assisting them in recording phone calls which he maintained would prove he was being extorted by a man spinning fanciful claims of abuse.
Investigators said it was during those phone calls that they concluded Hastert was not being extorted, and that the young man’s claims were, in fact, true.
Defense attorneys protested the relevance of the misleading calls as an aggravating factor. But Durkin cut them off.
"The defendant, rather than admitting to conduct with Individual A, basically said Individual A was holding him up," Durkin said. "That’s an aggravating fact in my mind, that’s not conduct that’s 40 years old."
And, lest the message be lost on the defense as to how they should prepare for sentencing, Durkin declared, "If you need a preview of what I think are aggravating factors, that’s a big one!"
During the hearing, prosecutors also confirmed they intend to call as witnesses a young man identified in the records only as "Individual D," along with Jolene Burdge, the sister of another victim who is now deceased.
Individual D is identified in court documents as a former member of the Yorkville wrestling team during the period when Hastert was coach. He recalled the former speaker had installed a "La-Z-boy" type chair in the boys’ locker room so he could sit and watch while the boys showered, and that Hastert once peformed a sexual act on him during a massage.
Hastert's attorney apologized on his behalf in a statement over the weekend.
"Hastert acknowledges that as a young man he committed transgressions for which he is profoundly sorry," said attorney Thomas Green. "He earnestly apologizes to his former students, family, friends, previous constituents and all others affected by the harm his actions have caused."
Hastert’s sentencing is set for April 27.