Updated at 1:24 p.m. ET
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in a case involving millions of dollars in hush money to keep secret allegations of misconduct decades ago.
A judge set the sentencing for Feb. 29. Federal prosecutors have recommended up to six months in prison as part of a plea deal that allows him to avoid a trial. The judge, however, could sentence Hastert to a maximum of five years and fine him up to $250,000.
The former Republican speaker was charged with one count of evading bank rules about currency transactions and one count of lying to federal investigators. Under the plea agreement Hastert pleaded guilty only to the charge involving currency violations.
NPR’s Cheryl Corley was at the courthouse in Chicago and says the judge asked Hastert if he knew what he was doing was wrong and that he responded, “Yes, sir.”
The deal states that Hastert “agreed to provide Individual A $3,500,000 in order to compensate for and keep confidential his prior misconduct against Individual A.”
It goes on to say that from July of 2012 to December 2014, Hastert withdrew $952,000 in amounts below $10,000 to “evade currency transaction reporting requirements” on more than 100 occasions.
When Hastert was interviewed by the FBI about the cash withdrawals, court documents say he “intentionally concealed from the agents that he withdrew the money to compensate” the unnamed person. The documents state:
“Accordingly, Hastert told agents that he was keeping the cash he had been withdrawing in a safe place. Hastert made these statements to mislead the agents as to the actual purpose of withdrawals and what he had done with the money.”
The Chicago Tribune reports Hastert, 73, could also face probation time and that neither the prosecution nor the defense anticipates that witnesses will be called at the sentencing.
The newspaper has more about Wednesday’s court appearance:
“Hastert read a brief statement saying that he didn’t want officials to know how he intended to spend the money he withdrew.
“The hearing got underway about 8:30 a.m. [CT] before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin. Hastert was asked a series of questions about his competency to plead guilty and the rights he was giving up by doing so.”
“I understand, your honor,” Hastert said. He said no one was forcing him to plead guilty.”
The guilty plea represents a dramatic fall from grace for the respected former lawmaker who served as House Speaker for eight years.
As the Two-Way has reported:
“Hastert was indicted on the charges by a federal grand jury back in May. The U.S. attorney’s office alleged that Hastert paid $3.5 million to a person identified as Individual A to ‘compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A.’
“Further reporting has revealed that the payments were tied to allegations that Hastert sexually abused Individual A when Hastert was a high school teacher and a wrestling coach.”
You can read the plea agreement in full below.
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