Attorneys for former U.S. House speaker and Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert on Wednesday asked a federal judge to sentence their client to a term of probation, saying he was in poor health and already thoroughly shamed by the criminal case against him.
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 and that he paid someone to keep decades-old misconduct a secret.
That dull charge revealed more sinister allegations against Hastert, a former teacher and wrestling coach in a high school. A federal law enforcement official has said that the person paid off was a former male student of Hastert’s who alleged that the former speaker sexually molested him years ago.
Writing that the sentencing later this month “will be the most difficult day in Mr. Hastert’s life,” the former speaker’s attorneys urged a federal judge to considerhis deep remorse and his significant medical problems.
“Mr. Hastert’s fall from grace has been swift and devastating,” Hastert’s attorneys wrote. “Neither we as his lawyers, nor Mr. Hastert, have the present insight to understand and reconcile the unfortunate and harmful incidents he caused decades ago with the enduring achievements, leadership, and generosity that earned him extraordinary affection and respect throughout this country during his many years of public service.”
Hastert is scheduled to be sentenced on April 27. Federal sentencing guidelines call for him to face zero to six months in prison, although the judge could deviate from that range.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Chicago declined to comment on Hastert’s request for probation, saying prosecutors would file their written response by the Friday deadline.
The sentencing is likely to be an emotional affair. Another man leveling allegations of sexual misconduct against Hastert emerged last month, and prosecutors said he is mulling whether to testify at the sentencing hearing. Also expected to speak is a Montana woman who has said her brother, too, was abused by Hastert decades ago while he was a student manager on the wrestling team that Hastert coached.
Hastert’s own sentencing memo makes no specific mention of the sexual abuse allegations, instead focusing on the good he did — both in politics and as a teacher and coach in Illinois — and the humiliation he felt.
Hastert, his attorneys wrote, asked to have his name removed from Wheaton College’s J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy because “he wanted to minimize the repercussions felt by the school and its students.”
Hastert’s attorneys also provided extensive details about his failing health, writing that he “needs assistance getting out of bed, toileting, bathing, and dressing himself.”