CHICAGO (CBS) — A federal judge has delayed former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s arraignment on charges he agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to a longtime acquaintance, and lied to federal investigators who questioned Hastert’s suspicious bank withdrawals.
Hastert originally was set to make his first appearance in court on Thursday, but U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin has pushed that hearing back until 2 p.m. on June 9, a week from Tuesday.
While the judge’s order did not indicate why Hastert’s arraignment was delayed, such hearings are often flexible, especially when a defendant is expected to be released on his own recognizance, as is the case with Hastert.
Among the possible reasons for a delay in Hastert’s arraignment, his attorneys could have a simple scheduling conflict, or Durkin could be considering whether to recuse himself due to his ties to Haster’ts son or his own campaign contributions to Hastert. Also possible is that Hastert and his attorneys are negotiating a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
His attorneys have not yet filed an appearance in federal court.
Last week’s indictment left more questions than answers about the case against Hastert, who allegedly agreed to pay a longtime acquaintance $3.5 million to conceal misconduct that happened sometime when Hastert was a history teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville from 1965 to 1981.
The indictment does not specifically state if Hastert was a victim of extortion, or why he and the acquaintance apparently waited 40 years to make a deal to cover up the alleged misconduct.
Hastert, 73, allegedly has paid the acquaintance $1.7 million since 2010. According to multiple news reports, the payments were intended to cover up claims Hastert sexually abused someone while he was a teacher.
According to the indictment, the acquaintance – identified only as “Individual A” – lives in Hastert’s hometown of Yorkville, and has known him most of Individual A’s life.
In 2010, Hastert allegedly met with and then agreed to provide the acquaintance with $3.5 million to cover up his misconduct.
Hastert has been accused of withdrawing $952,000 in cash in order to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000, and lying to the FBI about his withdrawals. He’s been charged with one count each of structuring currency transactions to evade Currency Transaction Reports and making a false statement.
Hastert has remained out of sight since returning to Chicago last Thursday. He has sent mixed messages about the indictment, by resigning his position with a major D.C. lobbying firm, declining proposals for a $500,000 statue at the Illinois State Capitol, while also telling friends “I’m a victim too.”
The indictment against Hastert includes a preliminary bail of $4,500, and a recommendation he be released on his own recognizance. That would mean he could remain out of jail, and only pay bail if he were to miss a court appearance.