By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday postponed until April the sentencing date for Dennis Hastert, convicted last year of a financial crime, because the former U.S. House speaker was still recovering from a stroke and life-threatening infection.
Hastert pleaded guilty in October to a federal charge of "structuring" - evading bank reporting rules by withdrawing large amounts of cash in smaller increments - in a hush-money case stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct.
The 74-year-old, once one of the country's most powerful politicians, went to the hospital in early November after a fall, his attorney, John Gallo, told U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin.
Hastert was treated for a spinal infection requiring surgery, a severe blood infection and suffered a stroke, nearly dying, Gallo said.
Durkin reset Hastert's sentencing for April 8, from Feb. 29.
Hastert currently requires 24-hour care. He is able to feed himself and is articulate, but a doctor has said he should not leave his home except to go to the hospital. Gallo said Hastert can still help prepare for his sentencing, and his doctors would know better about his prognosis in a month.
Hastert faces up to five years in prison but prosecutors have recommended a sentence of six months or less, in exchange for his guilty plea.
Hastert admitted to paying $1.7 million in cash to an individual he had known for decades to buy that person's silence and compensate for past misconduct toward that individual.
Prosecutors did not spell out the misconduct, but unnamed law enforcement officials have told media that it was sexual and involved someone Hastert knew when he was a high school teacher and coach in his hometown of Yorkville, Illinois, in the 1960s and 1970s.