The federal judge presiding over former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s hush-money case donated money to the then-Illinois congressman, but he has not said whether he’ll recuse himself. That’s one of several outstanding issues as Hastert prepares to appear in court on the charges next week.
Here are a few questions and answers about the case and where it’s headed:
Q: WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT THE ARRAIGNMENT?
A: The 73-year-old former politician and lobbyist will formally hear the charges against him and may enter a plea when he appears for his arraignment on June 9. He’s accused of evading bank regulations in withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars and lying to the FBI about the reason for the withdrawals. If found guilty, he would face a $250,000 fine and a maximum five-year prison sentence on each of the two counts. The arraignment had been scheduled for this Thursday, but the judge delayed it until next week with no explanation.
Q: WHAT WAS THE MONEY FOR?
A: The May 28 indictment says Hastert agreed in 2010 to pay $3.5 million to a person identified only as “Individual A” to “compensate for and conceal (Hastert’s) prior misconduct” against that person. The indictment does not specify the misconduct. The document does note that Hastert was a history teacher and wrestling coach from 1965 to 1981 in suburban Yorkville, west of Chicago. The other party “has been a resident of Yorkville and has known Hastert for most of Individual A’s life,” the document says.
A person familiar with the allegations told The Associated Press that the payments were intended to conceal claims that the Illinois Republican sexually molested someone decades ago. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Q: WHO IS THE JUDGE?
A: U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin is handling the case. Federal Election Commission records show Durkin gave $500 to the “Hastert for Congress” campaign in 2002, and $1,000 in 2004. Durkin was an attorney at the Mayer Brown law firm in Chicago at the time. President Barack Obama appointed him a federal judge in 2012. He is also the brother of Illinois House GOP Leader Jim Durkin. Durkin told The Associated Press he could not comment on any aspect of the case, including whether he might recuse himself.
Q: WHERE IS HASTERT?
A: Hastert, who is from the far western Chicago suburb of Plano, has not appeared in public since the indictment was announced last week. He has not responded to repeated phone calls and emails seeking comment. Federal agents have not arrested Hastert. Defendants who aren’t considered a threat or a flight risk are often not placed under arrest, though a formal detention hearing is frequently held later.
The Washington lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro has said Hastert no longer works there. He’s also resigned from the boards of Chicago-based CME Group of derivatives exchanges and from a Christian college that had named an academic research center after him. On Sunday, Wheaton College in suburban Chicago announced it has removed his name from what had been called the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report from Washington.
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