By John Dempsey, WLS News
(CHICAGO) Expect a media circus at Chicago’s Dirksen Federal Building on Wednesday, as disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is set to plead guilty to charges of financial irregularities, that are reportedly tied to the sexual abuse of a minor.
Hastert appears before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin at 8:30 AM on Wednesday, five months to the day after federal prosecutors unveiled a stunning indictment against the once powerful Republican.
Hastert’s lawyers have requested the change-of-plea hearing. Prosecutors said they expect to reach a written plea agreement with Hastert.
Hastert has not shown his face in court since he pleaded not guilty June 9 to skirting banking laws and lying to the FBI. The charges were unveiled by federal prosecutors in a bombshell indictment announced May 28. It accused Hastert of an alleged $3.5 million hush-money scheme.
The case became even more sensational when sources told media outlets, including the Chicago Sun-Times, that Hastert paid millions of dollars to a longtime male acquaintance to cover up alleged sexual misconduct, stemming from the days when Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School.
However former federal Prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer, now the head of security for the Chicago office of Kroll Investigations, told “The Big John Howell Show” on WLS, that the plea deal means the public may never find out details of that alleged sexual abuse, saying “In a plea agreement which I think is what we’re gonna see tomorrow, both sides would have to agree as to what the factual allegations is. The open question is whether or not he’d have to get into why he took out the money and why he was structuring the money. And while the motive is interesting and it’s a fair point to say that people would want to know what it is, it’s not relevant to what he was charged with”
The indictment against Hastert, a man once second in line to the presidency, is vague. It triggered a search for Hastert’s alleged hush-money recipient, but that hunt has so far been unsuccessful. Known only as “Individual A,” that person is described in Hastert’s indictment simply as “a resident of Yorkville” who has known Hastert “most of Individual A’s life.”
Between 2010 and 2014, Hastert allegedly withdrew $1.7 million in hush money from his bank accounts, handing it over to “Individual A” to keep quiet about past misconduct, according to the indictment. Hastert had ultimately agreed to pay that person $3.5 million, the indictment alleged.
But Hastert illegally split up the withdrawal of $952,000 to evade the banks’ reporting requirements, according to the feds. Then, when the FBI got suspicious and asked Hastert if he made withdrawals as large as $50,000 because he didn’t trust the banks, he allegedly lied and said, “Yea … I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”
More embarrassing details could spill out if the case goes to trial. Experts have repeatedly predicted Hastert would try to avoid such a proceeding.
But Jeffrey Cramer told WLS while federal prosecutors will most likely not release details of the sexual abuse, that won’t stop others from trying to solve the mystery. “Media and others are trying to find out and going down to the town using process of elimination, trying to see who was on the wrestling team who he interacted with, who may have worked for his campaign since, to try and limit the number of suspects if you will.
Keep in mind this person, while certainly a victim if this is all true….may be an extortionist at this point because Mr. Hastert was giving him close to two million dollars and seemed to be in a hurry to do so. So maybe a double edged sword for that person. I left the department of justice about six years ago. I now head the Chicago office of Kroll Investigations, so we do a fair amount of investigations ourselves obviously, it can be done. You can learn who this person is and I’d be surprised if we didn’t know at some point”.
@ 2015 WLS News