Hastert defense says gearing up for U.S. trial: reports

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 14, 2015 1:42 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A defense attorney for former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert told a federal judge on Tuesday that he is gearing up for trial and plans to file a number of motions contesting elements of the indictment of the once-powerful politician, media reports said.

Hastert, who did not appear at Tuesday's status hearing at the federal courthouse in Chicago because he was not required to do so, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to hide large cash transactions and lied to the FBI about it.

Hastert's criminal defense attorney Thomas Green told District Judge Thomas Durkin that he would contest the indictment, saying it was amended in an "impermissible" way when unnamed sources told the media that Hastert was paying hush money to cover up alleged sexual misconduct, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The formal charges against Hastert, 73, have to do with alleged financial wrongdoing, not with the underlying alleged misconduct.

Green had already complained about leaks to the media at a hearing on June 18. He reiterated those complaints on Tuesday, the Sun-Times and other media outlets reported.

Durkin has granted a protective order that blocks prosecutors and the defense from disseminating information about the case. But the judge has also warned attorneys that if he bases rulings on certain information in the case, he may have to unseal the underlying information because the public has a right to know how he comes to his rulings.

According to the indictment unsealed in May, 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, that is, taking the funds out in increments of less than $10,000 to evade requirements that banks have to report large cash transactions.

Prosecutors allege he promised to pay $3.5 million to a person from his hometown of Yorkville, Illinois, where he was a teacher and wrestling coach at the local high school, to conceal past misconduct. The person, named in the indictment as "Individual A," has not been identified.

Hastert was the longest-serving Republican U.S. House speaker, a position he held from 1999 to 2007.

Prosecutors told Durkin on Tuesday that they expect the trial to take two weeks, the Chicago Tribune reported. No date has been set for the trial.

(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)