Former U.S. House Speaker Hastert to appear on federal charges

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 09, 2015 7:04 AM

By Fiona Ortiz and Tracy Rucinski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Dennis Hastert, a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is due to be arraigned in federal court in Chicago on Tuesday on charges of trying to hide large cash transactions and lying to the FBI about it.

According to an indictment, Hastert, 73, was trying to evade detection of $3.5 million in payments he had promised to make to someone from his hometown of Yorkville, Illinois, to conceal past misconduct against the person.

Law enforcement officials have said that the misconduct Hastert was trying to cover up was sexual contact with a male, according to reports in national media outlets.

The Illinois Republican, who has not appeared in public or made any statements since he was indicted on May 28, was a high school teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in the 1960s and 1970s.

Thomas Green, a prominent Washington, D.C., white-collar defense attorney with the Sidley Austin law firm, will represent Hastert, according to court documents and the law firm. Green declined to comment on the case.

Hastert led the House for eight years before leaving Congress in 2007. He was the longest-ever serving Republican Speaker.

After the indictment, Hastert resigned from the Dickstein Shapiro lobbying firm in Washington, where he worked, and from the boards of exchange operator CME Group Inc and REX American Resources.

His alma mater, Wheaton College in suburban Chicago, removed his name from its policy center.

Hastert lives on a rural property in Plano, Illinois, near Yorkville. He also owns a farm in Wisconsin and other Midwestern properties.

According to the indictment, Hastert withdrew $1.7 million in cash from his bank accounts from 2010 to 2014. He is charged with "structuring" $952,000 of those withdrawals, taking the funds out in increments of under $10,000 to evade the requirement that banks report large cash transactions.

Hastert then told the FBI that he was keeping the cash for himself, which the indictment said was a false statement.

The person receiving the payments has yet to come forward or be identified. But another possible victim has emerged. The sister of a student at Yorkville High School told ABC News on Friday Hastert had sexually abused her brother, who is now deceased.

The arraignment is before District Judge Thomas Durkin in the federal courthouse in Chicago. The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois announced special media guidelines for proceedings including an overflow room for reporters.

(Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Eric Walsh)