Expert to review ex-House Speaker Hastert's health: judge

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2016 4:06 PM

By David Bailey

(Reuters) - A federal judge in Chicago will appoint an independent medical expert to review the health of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, whose sentencing on a financial crime conviction has been delayed, a court order entered on Wednesday said.

Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty in October to a federal charge of "structuring" - evading bank reporting rules by withdrawing large amounts of cash in smaller increments. The former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives used the funds to pay an individual to keep quiet about decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct.

Judge Thomas Durkin earlier this year postponed Hastert's sentencing to April 8 from Feb. 29 because Hastert was recovering from a stroke and life-threatening infection.

Durkin said in a court order dated Tuesday and entered on Wednesday that the expert would review Hastert's submissions to the probation office regarding his condition and provide a report to the court.

The judge's order said a private conference was held at the court's request on Tuesday to discuss Hastert's submissions about his condition to the probation office. He ordered the transcript of the conference sealed because it dealt with confidential probation office records.

The conviction calls for a sentence of up to five years in prison. Prosecutors have recommended that Hastert serve six months or less in exchange for his guilty plea.

John Gallo, Hastert's attorney, told the court in January the former speaker had been treated for a spinal infection that required surgery, a severe blood infection and had suffered a stroke, nearly dying.

Hastert admitted to paying $1.7 million in cash to someone he had known for decades to buy that individual's silence and compensate for past misconduct toward that person.

Prosecutors did not spell out the misconduct, but unnamed law enforcement officials have told media it was sexual and involved someone Hastert knew when he was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois, in the 1960s and 1970s.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Anthony Lin and Peter Cooney)