Former GOP House Leader Hastert To Plead Guilty In Suspected Sweetheart Deal

 

Lawyers for former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced plans Oct. 15 for his guilty plea later this month to charges arising from $3.5 million payments via illegal methods to an unknown man, Dennis Hastert official photo from 109th Congresssuspected by some critics to have been a pedophile victim who obtained payments akin to blackmail.

Meanwhile, skeptics suggested that federal prosecutors and defense attorneys reached a deal whereby the former Illinois congressman (shown in a file photo) would not have to disclose even at sentencing any details of crime, thereby providing him unusual protection compared to other defendants.

The Chicago Tribune reported the plea deal in Ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert reaches plea deal, to admit wrongdoing.

The Corbett Report, an alternative news site, reported deeper scandal in The REAL Hastert Scandal: Pedophilia, Drug Money and Blackmail. The video below is introduced as follows: "A series of revelations from FBI whistleblowers reveal that this story is just the tip of a very seedy iceberg, one that implicates Hastert, his top aide, other Congress members and government officials in a criminal network involved in sexual intrigue, foreign espionage, blackmail, and drug money."
 

This editor and the Justice Integrity Project have followed the story closely for nearly a decade. We provided an early tip in 2006 to investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, who followed up with extensive research. He then published a four-part series alleging that the married and then-speaker Hastert was a closeted gay who orchestrated a cover-up scapegoating his gay pedophile colleague Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL). Meanwhile, the reporter wrote, Hastert hid his past from his "family values" constituency in a conservative House district southwest of Chicago extending into rural regions.

Madsen, a former Navy intelligence officer and the author of 12 books, wrote in his 2006 series that Hastert's political career began when he joined the Illinois legislature after being suspected of pedophile behavior while a high school wrestling coach in the community of Yorkville.

Madsen's story was essentially ignored until a federal indictment last spring accused Hastert of making unreported bank withdrawals in illegal amounts for unspecified purposes. The Justice Integrity Project summed up those developments June 8 in Media Protected Hastert, Then Pounced Like Hyena Pack On Scapegoat.

More currently, the Tribune quoted a legal expert as stating the government may seek to protect its witness and case by arranging a plea deal so attractive in terms of continued secrecy that Hastert might be inclined to accept at a schedule hearing Oct. 28.  The Tribune wrote:

Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor, told the Tribune on Thursday that it was possible both sides have agreed to a specific prison sentence for Hastert as part of the plea deal. Hastert's attorneys could also reserve the right to seek probation for him.

Cramer also raised the possibility that the defense could seek to waive a sentencing hearing entirely to keep the salacious details underlying the charges from becoming public. That would be a highly unusual move, though, especially for such a high-profile case, and would require the approval of the judge. "Dennis Hastert wants to avoid a sentencing hearing probably more than any other public official in history," said Cramer, who heads the Chicago security firm Kroll. "Normally a public figure wants to present all the good things he's done in his life. But that opens the door for prosecutors to bring in their own evidence." The indictment unsealed in late May alleges that Hastert agreed to make $3.5 million in hush money payments to Individual A to cover up wrongdoing from Hastert's time as a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville. According to the charges, Hastert lied about the reasons he withdrew $952,000 in cash over the previous 2 1/2 years when the FBI questioned him in December.

A tradition of such silence has enabled Hastert, 73, and other vice-seeking politicians to wield vast power over the public even though they are highly vulnerable to blackmailers and other controllers. That’s one aspect of a story the public should care about regarding Hastert, who was elected to Congress in 1986.
 
He resigned in 2007 to work as a lobbyist. Hastert, the longest-serving Republican speaker in U.S. history, left office quietly. The ostensible reason? Because Democrats had prevailed in the 2006 House elections, thereby preventing his continuation in the top job.
 
As for the current case? A plea deal could be a "sweeheart deal," depending on the still-hidden facts. But New York University legal ethics expert Stephen Gillers has made a case for the difficulty of an extortion prosecution in U.S. v. Hastert: Some Legal Questions as the Press Gets Ahead of the Story:
 
It seemed pretty obvious when news of the indictment broke that Dennis Hastert was paying to cover up sexual misconduct with a minor, although we could not say male or female. Various press reports told us indirectly what editors thought -- indirectly, to avoid risk of libel --  referencing Hastert's work coaching wrestling and with the Boy Scouts.
 
But the next questions were: Did Hastert's victim still have a claim he could bring? And would demanding payment for silence be extortion, a word the press, including the Times, has now used. Regarding the limitations period in Illinois on child sexual abuse, as I read the statutes, it could be as long as 20 years after the child reaches 18. The payments began in 2010.
 
As for extortion: If the child, now and adult, hired a lawyer and threatened to sue, as many have for harm arising from the sex abuse, and the lawyer settled for  $3.5 million, which Hastert was in the process of paying when indicted, that surely would not be extortion. We would call that a settlement. (For all we know, maybe the victim did hire a lawyer.)
 
Sibel Edmonds cover of Classified WomanHowever, former FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds reported suspected security violations when she worked as a contract translator in 2001 and was fired in March 2002 as a result.
 
She has argued before a Senate committee and elsewhere that the FBI obtained but failed to act on evidence implicating members of Congress in britery and sexual blackmail by foreign interests. Authorities later categorized her claims and underlying evidence as "state secrets" that she could never discuss. She and public interest lawyers obtained the right to release some of her claims, including evidence that Hastert during his time as Speaker received money from Turkish sources to help thwart U.S. recognition of historical crimes by Turks against Armenians.
 
Edmonds authored the 2012 memoir Classified Woman and followup Lone Gladio, founded the Boiling Frogs Post investigative site, and is the founder/director of the National Security Whistleblowers Association. She, the above-cited video report by James Corbett and a 2015 memoir Confessions of a DC Madam by Henry Vinson have alleged that Hastert has been among a number of prominent officials engaged in sex scandals and also blackmailed in various ways by those seeking money or political payback, or both. More specifically, she is quoted on the Corbett interview (without naming sources) as saying the FBI tracked Hastert "for many years" traveling internationally and obtaining "sexual favors" on government trips.   
 
There is a real possibility, the Washington Post quoted a legal expert as saying, that Hastert would received no jail time, home detention, or a token term in jail.
 
We shall continued to follow the story closely.
 
 
 
 
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Update

Washington Post, Former Dennis Hastert aides wonder if his secret affected his decisions, Matt Zapotosky, April 24, 2016. The ex-House speaker could be sentenced to prison Wednesday. In the Illinois town where Hastert coached and in the corridors of the U.S. Capitol where he once wrangled fellow legislators, the revelations about the purported sexual misdeeds have been met with shock, outrage and soul searching.

USA Today, Tom DeLay, ex-CIA director ask judge to go easy on Dennis Hastert, Staff report, April 22, 2016. Former House Speaker Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican shown in an official photo, recalled in his letter that Hastert started a Wednesday Bible study that Tom Delaythe two men took part in. "So I know his heart and have seen it up close and personal," DeLay wrote. "We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few. He is a good man that loves the lord. He gets his integrity and values from Him. He doesn't deserve what he is going through. I ask that you consider the man that is before you and give him leniency where you can."

Former CIA Director Porter Goss, a former GOP House member from Florida, called also for mercy.

Huffington Post, How Dennis Hastert Demonized Gays as Predators While He Was the True ‘Super-Predator,’ Michelangelo Signorile, April 13, 2016. No, it wasn’t African-American young men of the ‘90s — supposedly feral, “fatherless” and “godless” urban youth hell-bent on murder and mayhem — who were “super-predators,” a myth since exposed and which was created by the Princeton political science professor John DiIulio (who later became George W. Bush’s first director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives) based on junk science.

Meanwhile, the true example of a “super-predator” appears to have been former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a man who prosecutors now say molested at least 4 boys, including a 14-year-old and one who years later took his own life. Since the statute of limitations on those crimes, which took place decades ago, has expired, Hastert will only receive up to six months in jail on charges stemming from bank withdrawals of large sums of cash in violation of federal law, in what prosecutors say was for the purpose of “hush money.”  Worse yet, through the years, as he covered up the sexual assaults he committed as a wrestling coach back in Yorkville, Illinois, Hastert pushed policies and positions as a House member and as the Speaker of a far-right GOP majority from 1999 to 2007 that demonized gays in part by portraying gay men as sexual predators.

“We must continue to be proactive warding off pedophiles and other creeps who want to take advantage of our children,” the Illinois congressman stated in promoting a bill to stop exploitation of children online shortly before he became House Speaker. That was brought to light in a Politico report last year which revealed that Hastert had a file in his office labeled “Homosexuals,” which included the sexual predator smear against gay men.

Washington Post, Prosecutors offer details on Dennis Hastert’s alleged sexual abuse of teenagers, Matt Zapotosky, April 8, 2016. Federal prosecutors on Friday detailed some of the lurid allegations of sexual misconduct against former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert and asked a federal judge to subject the Illinois Republican to a sex offender evaluation. In a memo in advance of an April 27 sentencing hearing, prosecutors spelled out in graphic detail how Hastert sexually molested or inappropriately touched five teenagers who trusted him as their wrestling coach. And as Hastert rose to power, believing that his wrongdoing would never be made public, his victims struggled with the effects of the abuse, prosecutors wrote.

Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty last year to violating federal banking laws, admitting in a deal with prosecutors that he withdrew money from banks in increments low enough to avoid mandatory reporting requirements. That charge, though, always belied the case’s actual underpinnings. Prosecutors and defense attorneys had already agreed that federal sentencing guidelines in the case called for a prison term between zero and six months, and prosecutors recommended a term inside that range Friday, coupled with a sex offender assessment. A federal judge is not bound by that recommendation and could sentence Hastert to as much as five years in prison.

In their memo, prosecutors also spelled out for the first time how investigators came to learn of the abuse. In 2012, prosecutors wrote, a bank official noticed the former House speaker had made seven $50,000 cash withdrawals over a two-year stretch.

 

Editor's Recommendations

WMR, In 2006, WMR reported on Hastert's blackmailable "misconduct," Wayne Madsen (shown in a photo during a lecture last spring), May 29, 2015 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission). Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was indicted in Chicago on May 28 for lying to FBI agents about his cash withdrawals from his various bank accounts. Hastert withdrew the money, allegedly beginning in 2010, to pay an individual described only as "Individual A" in the federal indictment as blackmail over "prior misconduct" on the part of Hastert. The Chicago Tribune only referred to the blackmail as "Dennis Hastert's dark secret," but northern Illinois was abuzz with credible rumors that dark secret had something to do with Hastert's earlier years as a wrestling coach for boys at Yorkville High School outside of Chicago.

Wayne Madsen May 29, 2015The indictment indicates that Individual A had something to do with Hastert's coaching years because it begins, "from approximately 1965 to 1981, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois." The indictment also states that from 2010 Hastert paid Individual A, who is said to be from Yorkville, a total of $3.5 million to "compensate for and conceal (Hastert's) prior misconduct" with the unnamed person from Hastert's past. There is no mention of his having been blackmailed as a result of his activities as Speaker. Since leaving Congress in 2007, Hastert has been a lobbyist for the Washington law firm of Dickstein Shapiro.

Hastert was charged with one count of structuring currency transactions -- withdrawing cash in increments of just under $10,000 -- to avoid mandatory federal currency transaction reporting requirements by his banks and one count of making a false statement to the FBI. Hastert began paying the blackmail, from June 2010 to April 2012, by making 15 withdrawals of $50,000. He then began withdrawing just under the $10,000 reporting threshold. Hastert lied to the FBI by claiming the withdrawals were because the former Speaker and third in line to the presidency of the United States, lost faith in the U.S. banking system.

In 2006, WMR scooped the Washington media by reporting that Hastert was involved with the cover-up of a major sex scandal involving Republican congressmen and underage male pages.


Boiling Frogs Post, BFP EyeOpener Report: The Hastert Scandal: What the Media Isn’t Telling You, Sibel Edmonds, Oct. 14, 2015 (Part of a series). A scandal too deep, too dark, and covers too many people from both sides of the political aisle for it to ever proceed in public. When former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was first indicted, the mainstream press treated it as a story of a long-ago transgression that has long since been swept under the rug. But a series of revelations from FBI whistleblowers reveal that this story is just the tip of a very seedy iceberg, one that implicates Hastert, his top aide, other Congress members and government officials in a criminal network involved in sexual intrigue, foreign espionage, blackmail, and drug money.

Related News Coverage

Justice Integrity Project, Media Protected Hastert, Then Pounced Like Hyena Pack On Scapegoat, Andrew Kreig, June 8, 2015. Political reporters failed for years to connect the dots on former House Speaker Dennis Hastert C-SPANDennis Hastert’s involvement in the national capital’s gay scene. Even now, the mainstream and alternative media's "pack journalism" style remains focused almost solely on a near-frenzy to publish details about Hastert's story while refraining from probing the broader implications of the clout once held by a man second-in-line to the presidency. Whether from timidity or complicity, the media are focusing as usual in holding up one miscreant as a scapegoat while remaining nearly silent regarding a long term pattern of links between sex scandal, blackmail, federal contracts that bilk taxpayers, selective prosecution, and other corrupt policy making. A tradition of such silence has enabled Hastert, 73, and other vice-seeking politicians and their blackmailers/controllers to wield vast power over the public. That’s the real story. His photo is from a C-SPAN appearance after he lost weight during recent years.

AP via Washington Post, Hastert enters not guilty plea during 1st court appearance, Michael Tarm and Sara Burnett, June 10, 2015. Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has pleaded not guilty to charges that he violated banking rules and lied to the FBI about promising to pay $3.5 million in hush money to conceal misconduct from his days as a high school teacher.

Politico, Dennis Hastert’s legal troubles echo the scandals of his speakership. Peter H. Stone, June 9, 2015. Congress today has among the lowest approval ratings that it’s ever had — down there with cockroaches and root canals. Dennis Hastert helped get it there, tolerating, and at times even fostering a culture of sleaze. During his speakership — the longest ever by a Republican — the House’s morass of scandals, both in breadth and depth, was unprecedented, blow after blow for an institution that on its best day is still the punchline of too many jokes. As House speaker, Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) didn’t really do anything about it. Worse, Hastert caved on reform legislation and was oblivious to early warnings about at least one scandal. What Hastert did do was protect his closest ally and mentor, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, from tough investigation of misconduct by intervening with the House ethics oversight committee. “Hastert clearly took steps to insulate DeLay from proper investigation,” former Majority Leader Dick Armey, who preceded DeLay in that job and then left Congress in 2002, told me in a recent interview. Armey's blunt criticism is an indication that old conservative allies are washing their hands of a man who was once well respected in Republican circles now that Hastert, who was arraigned Tuesday in Illinois, is facing criminal charges himself. Those charges include lying to the FBI about improper bank withdrawals that skirted reporting requirements. Those withdrawls are allegedly connected to hush money payments by Hastert to hide what reportedly was an old incident of sexual abuse of a young boy.

Huffington Post, Dennis Hastert Hid His Skeletons As He Helped Push GOP's Anti-Gay Agenda, Amanda Terkel and Sam Stein, June 6, 2015. During the 2004 elections, George W. Bush's campaign, managed by a closeted gay man, pushed a series of anti-gay ballot initiatives across the country. The House of Representatives, led by a male speaker who allegedly sexually assaulted a male minor, moved a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage after beating back attempts to strengthen hate crimes legislation. And the White House, led in part by a vice president with a lesbian daughter, eagerly encouraged a conservative evangelical base hostile to gay rights. Though only slightly over a decade ago, that election seems increasingly like the relic of a far-off era as the country moves closer toward acceptance of legalizing marriage equality nationwide. But it's being revisited in light of recent revelations that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) may have sexually abused at least two male students during his time as a high school teacher and wrestling coach, and later lied to the FBI about the hush money he was paying one of them. Hastert wasn't a strident culture warrior during his time in Congress. But he was a vital cog in the anti-gay political machinery that the GOP deployed for political benefit. And now it appears his involvement carried the same elements of duplicity and deceit as that of other Republican operatives of that era.
 
NBC News, Sister of Alleged Dennis Hastert Victim Hopes More People Will Come Forward, Shelley Osterloh, Erin Calabrese and Elizabeth Chuck, June 7, 2015. The sister of an alleged victim of sexual abuse by Dennis Hastert said Saturday that she hopes others speak out in the case against the former politician and lobbyist. Jolene Burdge told NBC News that she didn't want to talk anymore about the allegations surrounding Hastert, who served as House speaker for eight years, but said: "I just hope more people will come forward." NBC News has made repeated attempts to reach Hastert without success since since he was indicted last week on charges that he structured bank withdrawals to avoid federal reporting requirements, then lied about it to the FBI. He has yet to comment publicly as well on allegations that he sexually abused high school wrestlers whom he was coaching in Yorkville, Illinois, decades ago when he was a teacher.
 
Politico, Sister of alleged Hastert victim talked allegations with ABC, AP in 2006, Dylan Byers, June 5, 2015. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was confronted with another allegation of sexual abuse on Friday after one Jolene Burdge told ABC News and the Associated Press that her late brother had been the victim of "years-long sexual abuse" by the Illinois Republican. But the report came nearly a decade after Burdge had first informed news organizations about the accusations. In 2006, Burdge reached out to ABC News alleging that her brother Steve Reinboldt had had a sexual relationship with Hastert, a teacher and a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in Illinois. Burdge was also contacted by the Associated Press after that organization received a tip from another source.

New York Times, Woman Says Dennis Hastert Abused Her Brother in High School, Julie Bosman and Dave Philipps, June 5, 2015. As an enthusiastic young teacher and wrestling coach, former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert reliably had one student at his side, former classmates say. Stephen Reinboldt, a smart, slender, likable student who rose to become class president, was the wrestling team’s equipment manager. For four years, he arrived at practice early and stayed late, traveled with Mr. Hastert to overnight tournaments, even when only one wrestler was competing, and went for long rides in the coach’s sports car, sometimes driving it.

On Friday, Mr. Reinboldt’s younger sister, Jolene Burdge, said her brother, who died in 1995, was also sexually abused by Mr. Hastert, but hid the fact for years because he thought no one would believe him. “Mr. Hastert had plenty of opportunities to be alone with Steve because he was there before the meets,” Ms. Burdge said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “He was there after everything because he did the laundry, the uniforms.” The allegation comes a week after Mr. Hastert, who served for eight years as House speaker, was indicted on charges of making cash withdrawals, totaling $1.7 million, to evade detection by the authorities and lying to investigators.

Washington Post, Nothing gay about Hastert hypocrisy, Jonathan Capehart, June 7, 2015. In discussing the scandal engulfing former House speaker Dennis Hastert, who is due in court this week, one thing must be made Dennis Hastert Gavel Wikipediaabsolutely clear. What he is alleged to have done to young boys has absolutely nothing to do with being gay or gay rights.

Huffington Post, Fellow Congressman Was Told About Dennis Hastert Abuses, Source Says, Sam Stein, June 2, 2015. At least one member of Congress was likely aware that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) allegedly sexually molested a former male student prior to his time in Congress. Relatively early on during Hastert's speakership, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) was approached with news about the alleged abuse, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation that took place with Watt. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter. According to the source, the person who approached Watt was an intermediary for the family of the abuse victim and knew the North Carolina congressman informally. It is unclear what Watt, who now directs the Federal Housing Finance Agency, did with the information.

Huffington Post, Patriot Act That Dennis Hastert Passed Led To His Indictment, Daniel Marans, May 28, 2015. On Oct. 24, 2001, then-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) shepherded the Patriot Act through the House of Representatives. It passed 357 to 66, advancing to the Senate and then-President George W. Bush’s desk for signing. Hastert took credit for House passage in a 2011 interview, claiming it “wasn’t popular, and there was a lot of fight in the Congress” over it. Little did Hastert know at the time that the law he helped pass would give federal law enforcement the tools to indict him on charges of violating banking-related reporting requirements more than a decade later.

The Department of Justice on Thursday announced Hastert's indictment for agreeing to pay $3.5 million in hush money to keep someone quiet about his “prior misconduct.” The indictment accuses Hastert of structuring bank withdrawals to avoid bank reporting requirements, and lying to the FBI about the nature of the withdrawals. It does not reveal the “misconduct” that Hastert was trying to conceal. The recipient of the money was a resident of Yorkville, Illinois, where Hastert taught high school and coached wrestling from 1965 to 1981. The indictment suggests that law enforcement officials relied on the Patriot Act’s expansion of bank reporting requirements to snare Hastert. As the IRS notes, “the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 increased the scope” of cash reporting laws “to help trace funds used for terrorism.” The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, which was amended by the Patriot Act, had already required banks to report suspicious transactions.

Chicago Tribune via Huffington Post, Hastert Accused Of Secretly Profiteering From $3 Million Real Estate Deal, Mike Dorning and Andrew Zajac, March 28, 2008. Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert and two partners turned a profit of more than $3 million on property they accumulated and sold in just over three years near the route of a proposed controversial freeway on the western fringe of suburban Chicago, according to land records and financial disclosure reports released Wednesday.

Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean rejected the notion that the land, located 5 1/2 miles from the proposed Prairie Parkway route, rose in value because of the highway project. The speaker long has been an aggressive proponent of the highway and helped secure more than $200 million in federal funding through an earmark in federal transportation legislation. The property near Plano, Ill., was sold three months after the transportation bill was signed into law. It was purchased by a real estate developer who is planning to build more than 1,500 homes on the land. Hastert received five-eighths of the proceeds from the land sale, said Dallas Ingemunson, one of his partners. That indicates a profit of more than $1.5 million for Hastert.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Gawker, Prosecutors Say "Terrorism Expert" Was Actually Just an Expert at Conning Fox News Producers, Gabrielle Bluestone. Oct. 15, 2015. A “former CIA agent” who frequently talked national security on Fox News was actually just an extremely talented con man with a penchant for scamming Fox News producers and government contractors alike. On Thursday, federal prosecutors charged Wayne Simmons with false statements, major fraud against the U.S., and wire fraud. It seems Simmons — a frequent Fox News guest who also wrote a book drawing on his “27 years in the CIA” — was able to parlay his claims of a career in intelligence into actual government contractor jobs abroad. Simmons was invited to train at a U.S. Army facility after allegedly lying his way into a position as a “Human Terrain System Team Leader” for an “unnamed government contractor in 2008.” He popped up in another government subcontractor job. In that role, prosecutors said, he was actually deployed overseas as an adviser to senior U.S. military personnel. He’s been charged with taking a $125,000 “real estate investment” and using it for his personal expenses.