CHICAGO (CBS) — A swarm of local and national media has descended on the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in the Loop, as former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert prepares to appear before a judge to enter his plea to charges tied to apparent hush money payments to cover up sexual abuse allegations.
Hastert has been accused of illegally structuring bank withdrawals to hide $1.7 million in payments he made to a longtime acquaintance, and lying to the FBI when questioned about the banking activity.
Federal prosecutors have alleged Hastert agreed to pay a total of $3.5 million to the acquaintance, identified only as “Individual A” to cover up past misconduct. Although the charges do not specify the misconduct, sources have said Hastert was making the payments to conceal allegations he sexually abused a student while he was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School.
It has been a stunning and unexpected fall from grace for Hastert, 73, who has yet to address the allegations in public. He has hired high-powered defense attorney Thomas Green, a 40-year Washington D.C. white collar crime specialist and veteran of numerous high profile trials.
The case has generated interest worldwide, as Hastert was just heartbeats away from the presidency when he was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007. Streets outside the Dirksen Building were lined with satellite and news trucks, and the designated press area in the lobby was brimming with dozens of members of the press hours before Hastert’s scheduled 2 p.m. arraignment.
His court appearance likely will be brief, as all he will be required to do is enter a plea, then be fingerprinted by federal marshals, and have his mugshot taken, before he is released on his own recognizance.
CBS 2 Legal Analyst said it’s unlikely prosecutors will reveal any more details about the alleged hush money payments at Tuesday’s hearing – such as who he was paying, or why.
“Probably not today,” he said. “Maybe in the future. It’s really an open question. Today’s proceeding is really a procedural proceeding; plead not guilty.”
Miller said Hastert might have restrictions placed on his travel, but he won’t be taken into custody.