CHICAGO (CBS/AP) — Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert will now come face to face with one of his accusers.
CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey was in court where there were ominous signs from the judge that he’ll be tough on the former house speaker.
Judge Tom Durkin today sent a clear message: there will be no easy way out for the former wrestling coach from Yorkville.
The April 27 sentencing is shaping up to be a showdown.
Jolene Burdge, the sister of a long-dead alleged Hastert sex abuse victim, will address the court, and so too will the victim identified in court papers as individual “D” who says Hastert performed a sex act on him after wrestling practice.
In court documents unsealed Wednesday, Hastert now says he has “no recollection” of the encounter with “Individual D.”
But in a surprise move, Judge Durkin decided the two government witnesses would not just read statements, but testify under oath, face-to-face with Hastert.
“Wants to get up there on the stand and say, ‘Hey, this is what he did to me — this is the effect that it’s had on me over all these years’ trying to get a jail sentence for Dennis Hastert,” said CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller.
Judge Durkin quieted the court when he vowed to go beyond the recommended sentence by using against Hastert the lies he told to FBI agents that he was the victim of extortion.
Hastert said the sex abuse allegations were false and the victims were out to smear his good name.
“The defendant said Individual A was holding him up,” Durkin said. “Extorting him. That’s aggravated. That’s conduct that’s not 40 years old. That’s conduct that’s less than a year old. It’s an aggravating factor. And what I find that’s a big one.”
Miller says “He was shocked when he heard that Hastert was trying to say that this kid was blackmailing him for no reason, I mean he’s victimizing the victim…If I were Dennis Hastert, I would be worried that the judge is going to give him more than that six months. That should be his biggest worry today.”
Durkin let everyone know Wednesday he takes very seriously the shocking sex crimes Hastert carried out against teens who looked up to him and that the 74-year-old Hastert should begin preparing for some of the rest of his life behind prison walls.
Hastert has pleaded guilty to breaking banking law to pay $3.5 million to ensure someone called “Individual A” in court papers stayed silent about being abused when he was 14 at a high school where Hastert coached wrestling until 1981. Hastert wasn’t charged with sex abuse because statutes of limitations long since ran out.
The prosecutors have said they would have preferred sex-abuse charges, but the statute of limitation on sexual abuse ran out decades ago. Still, prosecutors considered Hastert’s conduct with the victims, all boys 14 to 17 years old, so egregious that they chose to pursue the banking charge to ensure he faced some punishment.
Defense lawyers have asked for the judge to spare Hastert prison time and give him probation instead, citing his health and the steep price they say he’s already paid in public shame.
The statutory maximum for the banking violation is five years in prison, but sentencing guidelines suggest no more than a matter of months. Federal judges have enormous leeway, so Durkin will not be bound by the guidelines.
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