Ex-Speaker Hastert to Answer Hush-Money Case Counts Thursday

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Former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is to appear in a Chicago court Thursday to answer charges he dodged a banking law and lied to the FBI to further a hush-money scheme.

The appearance would be Hastert’s first since he was indicted last week on two criminal counts that could send the former Illinois congressman, the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House, to prison for as long as 10 years.

Hastert, who served in the House of Representatives from 1987 to 2007, agreed to pay an unnamed person $3.5 million in exchange for silence about “prior misconduct,” according to prosecutors.

A U.S. official briefed on the investigation last week said the misconduct was sexual in nature and occurred while Hastert was an Illinois high school teacher and wrestling coach. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the prosecution is pending.

No attorney has filed court papers on Hastert’s behalf. Hastert, 73, hasn’t been reachable for comment. He resigned last week from the Washington law firm Dickstein Shapiro LLP, where he’d been working as a lobbyist. Justin Chiarodo, an attorney at the firm who represents Hastert in a lawsuit, hasn’t responded to phone and e-mail messages.

Hastert rose to the speakership, second in line to the U.S. presidency, during the impeachment of Democratic Bill Clinton. He held the post for eight years.

According to federal prosecutors, Hastert had several meetings in 2010 with a person identified in court papers as “Individual A” during which they discussed his misconduct and agreed upon an amount of compensation.

Cash banking transactions exceeding $10,000 are subject to federal reporting requirements. When Hastert’s withdrawals led to questions from bank officials, he allegedly took out $952,000 in increments of less than $10,000, eventually drawing the scrutiny of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The case is U.S. v. Hastert, 15-cr-00315, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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