A political career which began in 1983 and witnessed his rise to become Speaker of the House of Representatives ended ingloriously for Dennis Hastert on Wednesday in a Chicago courtroom when the former Illinois representative pleaded guilty to evading banking laws.
By entering a guilty plea in a deal negotiated with federal prosecutors, Hastert could serve up to six months in prison.
According to a May 2015 indictment, prosecutors allege Hastert withdrew cash sums in amounts up to but not exceeding $10,000 to avoid the compulsory filing of paperwork with banks to report the removal of large sums of money.
“I didn’t want them to know how I would spend the money,” Mr. Hastert said prior to entering his guilty plea.
Hastert’s guilty plea on one felony count of evading federal banking laws allows him to avoid a second count of lying to federal authorities.
Similarly, Mr. Hastert’s plea agreement will allow the details of his conduct which led to his indictment to remain sealed.
In the 15-page plea agreement, Hastert acceded to a 2010 pledge to pay one identified as “Individual A” $3.5 million in cash to compel silence for what prosecutors believe is past sexual misconduct with a male student when Hastert was a high school educator in Yorkville, Illinois.
In sum, Hastert is believed to have paid close to $1 million in tribute to “Individual A,” through a string of 106 bank transactions since 2010.
While many will understand Hastert’s activity was designed to cover his past, it is virtually impossible to have sympathy for him.
The reality is the facts and arguments surrounding this case involve sexual misconduct with a minor while Hastert was a career educator and in a position of power over children.
Although Hastert was known as the longest-serving Republican Speaker in history, he will forever be tarnished for his private failings and best recognized for a guilty plea in a sordid case.
[BBC] [New York Times] [Photo courtesy Wall Street Journal]