In a nine-page plea for mercy, attorneys for disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Wednesday Hastert has been punished enough, through failing health and his own guilt and humiliation. They asked that Hastert be spared time behind bars and instead receive a term of probation when he is sentenced later this month.
"We implore this court to consider the entirety of Mr. Hastert’s life," they wrote, noting that after decades of public service, the former speaker has been stung by "public repudiations," including the removal of his official portrait from the U.S. Capitol.
"Mr. Hastert’s fall from grace has been swift and devastating," they wrote. "[He] knows that the days of him being welcomed in the small towns he served all his life are gone forever."
Hastert pleaded guilty to a crime known as "structuring," an effort to mask payments to an unnamed individual whom he had reportedly wronged decades ago when he was a wrestling coach in suburban Yorkville. It has been widely reported that those wrongs were sexual in nature.
"Mr. Hastert feels deep regret and remorse for his actions a decade ago," they wrote, "and is prepared to face the consequences."
The document calls the past months the most difficult of Hastert’s 74 years. His lawyers noted that he voluntarily removed himself from multiple institutions and committees to shield them from the embarrassment and stigma that would soon attach to his name. And they lamented the impact on his family.
Hastert’s attorneys noted that shortly after his guilty pleas last October, the former speaker’s health declined with a series of medical mishaps including sepsis a small stroke. He was hospitalized for more than two months, and even now, needs assistance "getting out of bed, toileting, bathing, and dressing himself."
Hastert needs a caregiver 24 hours each day to meet his basic needs, they said, and largely travels in a wheelchair, although he can walk short distances with a walker and an assistant.
"Since the entry of his guilty plea and his subsequent hospitalization, Mr. Hastert continues to be consumed by feeling of regret," they said. "He is overwhelmed by the guilt he feels for his actions, for the harm he caused by his misconduct, and for disappointing those who have supported him for so long."
Hastert is scheduled for sentencing April 27. The government is to file its own pre-sentence declarations on Friday.