CHICAGO (AP) — A judge overseeing Dennis Hastert's hush-money case on Wednesday ordered an independent review of the former U.S. House speaker's medical records, a move that follows a delay in Hastert's sentencing after his lawyers said he had nearly died and remained in poor health.
The three-sentence order filed by Judge Thomas M. Durkin in U.S. District Court in Chicago doesn't explain the need for an expert to "provide an independent report to the court on the defendant's medical condition," including whether the judge might doubt the severity of Hastert's illness as described by defense lawyers.
Hastert pleaded guilty on Oct. 28 to violating bank laws in seeking to pay someone $3.5 million in hush money.
In his plea agreement, the 74-year-old Republican acknowledged he sought to pay someone to hide his misconduct against that person dating back decades to around the time he was a high school wrestling coach. The Associated Press and other media outlets, citing anonymous sources, have reported that Hastert wanted to hide claims that he sexually molested someone.
Hastert's plea deal calls for a sentence of no more than six months in prison, and his health issues could play a deciding role in whether Durkin chooses to put him behind bars or give him probation.
The new filing comes a day after Durkin met with both sides behind closed doors to, according to Wednesday's order, "discuss (the) defendant's submission to the Probation Office concerning his medical condition." The judge himself asked for the medical expert's intervention, not prosecutors, the order says.
A prosecutors' spokesman declined to comment. Hastert's lead attorney, Thomas C. Green, didn't respond to a message seeking comment.
Durkin agreed at a hearing in January to push sentencing back from Feb. 29 to April 8 after Hastert's attorneys said their client was largely immobile and could neither bathe nor dress himself.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block said at the time he didn't object to pushing back the sentencing — at least the one time. But he said sentencing shouldn't be put off indefinitely because "victims in this case ... deserve closure."
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.