Q&A: A look at the indictment of ex-House Speaker Hastert

AP News
|
Posted: May 31, 2015 3:59 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — The federal indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is as notable for the details it excludes as for the allegations that the longtime high school teacher and wrestling coach agreed to pay $3.5 million in hush money to an unidentified person from his past.

Following are questions and answers about the felony indictment:

___

Q: WHAT ARE THE CHARGES?

A: The 73-year-old former politician and lobbyist is accused of evading bank regulations by withdrawing $952,000 in increments of less than $10,000 to skirt reporting requirements designed to deter money laundering. He also is charged with lying to the FBI about the reason for the unusual withdrawals. He faces a $250,000 fine and a maximum 5-year prison sentence on each of the two counts.

___

Q: WHAT IS THIS REALLY ABOUT?

A: The May 28 indictment details a 2010 agreement between Hastert and a person identified only as "Individual A" to pay millions to "compensate for and conceal (Hastert's) prior misconduct" against the unnamed individual.

The grand jury indictment notes at the outset that Hastert was a history teacher and coach from 1965 to 1981 in suburban Yorkville, west of Chicago. The other party "has been a resident of Yorkville and has known Hastert for most of Individual A's life," the document says.

A person familiar with the allegations told The Associated Press that payments were intended to conceal claims that the Illinois Republican sexually molested someone decades ago. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, and the allegations are not contained in the indictment.

___

Q: WHY THE SECRECY?

A: Chicago attorney Michael Helfand, who is not involved in the case, called the absence of information in the indictment about the underlying reason for the payments unusual. While he acknowledged that depending on the circumstances, Individual A could also face extortion charges if Hastert was being blackmailed, the payments could also have been made by mutual agreement as part of an extra-legal settlement meant to remain secret, Helfand said.

"This case is really about lying to the FBI," he said. "He may not get in trouble for what he did, but for the cover-up."

Additional details could emerge in court or through a new indictment, but Helfand, who monitors Chicago's legal scene for an online lawyers referral service, also suggested that such specifics may never become public.

"Usually they throw all their cards out on the table and make the best case they can make," he said. "When they indict, they've got the goods."

___

Q: WHAT HAS HASTERT SAID?

A: Nothing. The man still known to many in Yorkville as "Denny " or "Coach" has not appeared publicly since the indictment, or responded to repeated phone calls and emails seeking comment. Federal online court records don't list an attorney on his behalf. The Washington lobbying firm of Dickstein Shapiro has said that the former GOP leader, who retired from Congress in 2007 after eight years as speaker, no longer works there. He's also resigned from the boards of Chicago-based CME Group of derivatives exchanges, and a Christian college that had named an academic research center after him. On Sunday, Wheaton College announced that what had been known as the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy is now just named after the suburban Chicago school.

___

Q: WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?

A: Hastert could appear in U.S. District Court in Chicago as soon as this week to be arraigned on the charges. Prosecutors said Hastert will be ordered to appear, but no date has been set.

___

Associated Press reporter Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report. Scher Zagier reported from St. Louis.

___

Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm and Alan Scher Zagier at http://twitter.com/azagier