Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty to financial crimes related to a hush money scandal that stems from sexual "improprieties" committed decades ago. He will be sentenced Wednesday. The following is a brief run-down of the case.
1. Hastert’s Banking Practices Drew Suspicion from Prosecutors
Prosecutors said Hastert aroused the suspicion of his banks after withdrawing large amounts of cash in early 2012. After bank officials informed Hastert that they were going to close his accounts due to the unusual withdrawals, the matter eventually came to the attention of the FBI.
Hastert allegedly structured cash withdrawals in increments of just under $10,000 to avoid financial reporting rules and then lied to the FBI about the reason for the withdrawals. By December of 2014 Hastert had withdrawn $1.7 million in cash over the course of approximately four and a half years.
When they approached him that month, FBI agents said Hastert told them he was withdrawing the money because he “did not think the banks were safe.” Eventually, defense lawyers told the government that former Speaker had been the victim of an extortion plot, involving a false claim made by a former student identified as Individual A.
2. Past Victims Came Out to Accuse Hastert
In March of 2015, Individual A told federal agents that he was the case’s victim.
The incident in question occurred on a school wrestling trip, where Hastert, then the Yorkville coach, allegedly insisted that the boy stay in his hotel room.
Individual A admitted that he demanded $3.5 million from Hastert in 2010. The first payment was made at Hastert’s Yorkville office, he said, with other $50,000 payments occurring every few months in the parking lot of a Yorkville store. Later, they changed that arrangement to payments of $100,000 every three months.
Other young men also alleged abuse. Individual B said Hastert performed a sex act on him in a locker room at Yorkville High School when he was just 14 years old and Individual C said Hastert brushed his genitals during a massage.
Individual D said Hastert put a “Lazyboy”-type chair in direct view of the shower stalls where he sat while the boys showered. The boy said Hastert performed a sex act on him, when he was 17.
A woman named Jolene Burdge also said her late brother, Stephen Reinboldt, told her that Hastert had sexually abused him throughout his high school years from 1967 to 1971.
Two of the accusers are expected to testify at his upcoming sentencing hearing.
3. Hastert Initially Pleaded Not Guilty to charges but Later Reversed Course
In June of 2015, Hastert originally Pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he violated banking rules and lied to the FBI about $3.5 million he agreed to pay someone from his days as high school teacher not to reveal a secret about his past misconduct. In October of last year, Hastert reversed course and pleaded guilty to the charges.
4. Prosecutors Detailed Alleged Abuse in Hush-Money Case
Federal prosecutors confirmed for the first time in April, allegations that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert paid hush money to cover up the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old student decades ago. And they alleged numerous other sexual encounters, involving young men who had once wrestled on teams Hastert coached in the seventies.
Two accusers will be present at Wednesday’s sentencing.
5. Family, Ex-Politicians Pen Letters in Support of Hastert
Hastert’s wife, two sons and brother all wrote letters asking the judge asking to spare the former Speaker of the House prison time. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and a group of other prominent former US leaders also wrote letters in defense of the embattled Hastert.
The letters were made public last week.