CHICAGO (CBS) — Facing up to 5 years in prison in a hush money case, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been hospitalized the past six weeks after suffering a stroke.
“I am confirming that during the first week of November our client Dennis Hastert was admitted to the hospital. Mr. Hastert has suffered a stroke and has been treated for Sepsis. While in the hospital two surgeries on his back were performed,” Hastert’s attorney Thomas Green said in an email Thursday afternoon. “We are hopeful that Mr. Hastert will be released from the hospital in the early part of the new year. The family very much desires that during Mr. Hastert’s continued hospitalization his privacy will be respected.”
It was not clear if Hastert suffered the stroke before or after he underwent the back surgeries.
One of Hastert’s longtime friends, Dallas C. Ingemunson, tells WBBM he talked with Hastert last week by phone and Hastert seemed to be doing OK. He says Hastert is in the hospital in Aurora.
In October, Hastert pleaded guilty to illegally structuring bank withdrawals in an effort to conceal hush money payments, under a plea agreement that includes a sentence recommendation of up to 6 months in prison, although the final decision is up to the judge, and the count to which he pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 5 years.
Under the plea agreement, Hastert admitted agreeing to pay $3.5 million to an unnamed “Individual A” to hide past misconduct, and took out nearly $1 million from his bank accounts, and tried to hide the withdrawals from authorities. The plea agreement did not provide any details on the past misconduct behind the hush money payments, but sources have said Hastert was trying to hide allegations he sexually abused a student decades ago, while he was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School.
Hastert’s sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 29.
CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv miller says the judge, by law, must take Hastert’s health into consideration.
“His health will influence his sentence more than any other single factor in this case, other than the nature of the crime itself,” Miller tells CBS 2’s Audrina Bigos.
If Hastert’s attorneys ask for leniency due to poor health, there are alternatives to prison, such as home confinement or a prison hospital.