Federal prosecutors for the first time have acknowledged another victim in the bombshell hush-money case against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
Until now, the feds had referred only to a mysterious “Individual A,” whose identity has yet to be revealed — and who collected $1.7 million from the once-powerful Republican in exchange for silence regarding Hastert’s past misconduct. But Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block used plural terms while speaking to a judge about those who suffered from Hastert’s crimes.
“There are victims in this case,” Block said. “They deserve closure.”
Still, it remained unclear who those victims might be, how many there are or how they were victimized. Hastert has pleaded guilty only to a financial crime, admitting in October he illegally structured $952,000 in bank withdrawals to avoid raising red flags. His plea agreement also acknowledges he lied to the FBI when agents asked him about the withdrawals.
“I didn’t want them to know how I intended to spend the money,” Hastert told a judge in October.
Hastert had ultimately agreed to pay $3.5 million to “Individual A.” He did so to cover up sexual misconduct with a male student dating to his time as a teacher in Yorkville, sources have told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Shortly after Hastert’s indictment in May, an unnamed source said federal investigators identified and interviewed at least one other alleged victim. That second victim’s statements were critical to corroborating allegations of past sexual misconduct, the source said. But there was no allegation of a financial relationship involving the second individual.
Hastert’s plea deal with the feds seemed to leave open the possibility that embarrassing details of sexual misconduct could spill out when Hastert is finally sentenced. U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin agreed Thursday to postpone until April 8 what could be a dark day for Hastert; the postponement is the result of a series of ailments that put Hastert in the hospital in early November.
Block made his comment about Hastert’s victims during Thursday’s hearing as he was asking the judge to set a firm sentencing date.
John Gallo, a member of Hastert’s legal team, told the judge Thursday that lab results revealed Hastert had a significant infection on Nov. 3 — less than a week after his guilty plea. The lawyer said the man once second in line to the presidency also fell at home that day and “could not get up.” Hastert wound up in the hospital for spine surgery and treatment for a severe blood infection and stroke.
Gallo said Hastert “nearly died” and at one point lost function in the lower half of his body. He was released from the hospital Jan. 15. Hastert can feed himself but needs help for all other basic functions of daily living, Gallo said. Without the 24-hour care Hastert receives, he said Hastert would be in a nursing home.
However, Gallo also said Hastert seemed “lucid” and intelligible when they spoke recently. Hastert likely could meet with a probation officer at his home, but Gallo said his client is not supposed to leave his house except to go to the hospital. A motion filed by Hastert’s legal team last week indicates the former speaker needs “a walker and a leg brace to walk in his household.”
“He can be put in a wheelchair,” Gallo said.
The lawyer said Hastert’s odds of recovery might not be known for another month. Hastert’s condition will surely come into play when the former speaker finally appears in front of the judge to be sentenced. Supporters have already referenced it in letters calling for leniency. But if his lawyers ask the judge to go easy on Hastert, prosecutors could be compelled to reveal more details of Hastert’s crimes. They haven’t ruled out calling witnesses during the hearing.
U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon’s office also released a statement in October that promised as part of the sentencing to “provide the court with relevant information about the defendant’s background and the charged offenses.”