Former US House Speaker Hastert Indicted
Federal prosecutors have indicted former U.S. House Speaker House Dennis Hastert of Illinois on bank-related charges.
A statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago says the 73-year-old Republican from Plano is accused of structuring the withdrawal of $952,000 in cash in order to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000.
He's also accused of lying to the FBI.
Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
From 2010 to 2014, Hastert withdrew a total of approximately $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts and provided it to a person identified only as Individual A, according to the indictment.
In December last year, "Hastert falsely stated that he was keeping the cash'' when questioned by the FBI, the prosecutor's statement says.
The indictment says federal authorities began investigating Hastert's bank withdrawals in 2013.
Among the focuses of the FBI investigation was whether Hastert, in the words of the indictment, was "the victim of a criminal extortion related to, among other matters, his prior positions in government.'' The court document does not elaborate.
The indictment says Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to an unidentified person to hide "prior misconduct'' against that person. The indictment does not describe the misconduct Hastert was trying to conceal.
The Associated Press has left messages seeking comment from Hastert. A message left with a person at his Washington, D.C., office was not immediately returned Thursday. An email sent to Hastert also was not immediately returned.
Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar says he is “shocked” that Hastert is facing a federal indictment. Edgar and Hastert worked together in Springfield and Washington.
"Denny Hastert would be the last person I would think would be indicted, I’ve always known him to be a person of the highest integrity.," he said.
Edgar points out it is an indictment and not a conviction.
Republican State Representative Bob Pritchard, who's from the DeKalb area, sad it was Hastert who encouraged him to run for office back in 2003.
"As I was farming and had a farm business, we went to Washington and went to Springfield to talk about legislation and Denny Hastert was one that was always welcoming, was one that was down to earth and knew his constituents, and was receptive to the issues that has constituents had," he said.
Pritchard said it's bad for democracy whenever a past or current elected official is found to have indiscretions, or gets in trouble with the law.
"That's why I'm saddened by the indictment," he said. "But I certainly, again, say that Denny Hastert has done many positive things for the state and I will always keep him in high regard for those positive things."
Pritchard said he has no comment of knowledge of the specifics of Hastert's situation.
Hastert was a little-known lawmaker from a suburban Chicago district when he became the speaker of the U.S. House in 1999. He succeeded conservative firebrand Newt Gingrich. Hastert went on to become the GOP's longest-serving speaker. He served until 2007.
Hastert was generally viewed as a congenial lawmaker, typically called "coach'' by his Republican colleagues.