Former US House Speaker Dennis "Denny" Hastert pled not guilty on Tuesday two federal criminal charges, both related to his alleged payment of millions in hush money to someone blackmailing him about "past misconduct." Two federal law enforcement officials told the Los Angeles Times's Richard Serrano and Timothy Phelps that the hush money was specifically designed to cover up sexual abuse by Hastert of the blackmailer, who the officials say is male.
You can read the full indictment here:
Hastert allegedly made hush money payments to cover up sexual abuse he perpetrated as a high school coach/teacher
The indictment refers to the blackmailer solely as "Individual A" and notes that he or she "has been a resident of Yorkville, Illinois and has known defendant John Dennis Hastert most of Individual A’s life."
Nowhere in the indictment does it actually say what dirt Individual A had on Hastert, or why Hastert was so intent on keeping it a secret. According to a report by BuzzFeed's John Stanton, Andrew Kaczynski, and Evan McMorris-Santoro, the indictment was left vague in part because the prosecutor was pressured by Hastert's lawyers.
The day after the indictment was made public, the LA Times's Serrano and Phelps reported that Hastert was being blackmailed for sexual abuse he allegedly perpetrated during his time as a high school teacher and wrestling coach, before being elected to Congress. "It goes back a long way, back to then," one official told them. "It has nothing to do with public corruption or a corruption scandal. Or to his time in office." Since then, the sister of Steve Reinboldt, who was student equipment manager for Hastert's wrestling team while in high school, has alleged that her brother, who died in 1995, was molested by Hastert circa 1970-71.
Hastert allegedly withdrew about $1.7 million from 2010 to 2014 and provided it to Individual A. Initially, he allegedly made 15 withdrawals of $50,000 from 2010 to 2012 (for a total of $750,000), and gave money to Individual A every six weeks or so, but after bank representatives questioned him about the withdrawals he allegedly started taking out less than $10,000 at a time. Banks are required to report and look into any cash withdrawals in excess of $10,000; evading that requirement by using smaller withdrawals ("structuring"), as Hastert allegedly did, is a federal felony.
He's charged with "structuring" and lying to the FBI
Structuring is one count of the indictment. The other is lying to the FBI about it.
When the FBI asked if the point of the withdrawals was "to store cash because he did not feel safe with the banking system, as he previously indicated," Hastert allegedly replied, ""Yeah … I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing." Since Hastert — again, according to the indictment — actually used the money to pay off Individual A, that meant he made "materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the FBI.
Hastert had denied the week before the charges came down that he might face an indictment, according to Politico. He has been released on a $4,500 bond pending trial. The release is subject to certain court-imposed conditions, such as surrendering his passport and any firearms, and not contacting any victims or witnesses.
About a month before the indictment, Hastert requested that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan withdraw a proposal to spend $500,000 on a statue of Hastert for the state Capitol, citing the state's fiscal conditions.