Dennis Hastert’s lawyers have asked for a delay in the former House Speaker's sentencing scheduled for next month, citing ongoing medical conditions that left him in the hospital for months.
Hastert was admitted to the hospital in November after suffering a stroke. He was also treated for a spinal infection requiring spinal surgery and a severe blood infection, his lawyers said. He was discharged last week.
Hastert’s lawyers filed a motion saying the medical conditions have left them unable to prepare for his sentencing, which was scheduled for Feb. 29.
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“Mr. Hastert continues to need assistance for most daily activities, and also needs both a walker and a leg brace to walk in his household. He will also need close follow up with several specialists during this process,” the motion states.
After his home care, Hastert will likely need outpatient physical therapy, which could last between six and 12 weeks, his lawyers said.
According to the motion, his lawyers have requested a status hearing on March 7 to report on Hastert's condition.
Hastert was accused in May of evading banking regulations as part of a plan to pay $3.5 million in hush money to conceal "prior misconduct." The Associated Press and other media outlets, citing anonymous sources, have reported that Hastert wanted to hide claims that he sexually molested someone decades earlier.
Hastert pleaded guilty Oct. 28. In the written plea agreement, he directly acknowledged for the first time that he sought to pay someone the $3.5 million to hide misconduct by Hastert against that person dating back several decades — about the time the longtime GOP leader was a high school wrestling coach.
Hastert had allegedly paid more than $1.7 million to the person, sometimes in lump sums of $100,000 cash, by the time the scheme was discovered. The indictment said the payments stopped after FBI agents first questioned Hastert in December 2014.
Prosecutors recommended he serve no more than six months in prison. Hastert's lawyers are likely to ask for probation. Judges often put ailing or even terminally ill defendants behind bars, though they can factor age and health into decisions on punishment.
Hastert was a little-known Illinois lawmaker whose reputation for congeniality helped him ascend the ranks of Congress to become the longest-serving Republican speaker in U.S. history. In January 1999, House Republicans voted for him to succeed Newt Gingrich, who had lost support because of ethics violations and the party's poor showing in the 1998 midterm election. He served as speaker from 1999 to 2007.