Judge: Dennis Hastert may face longer sentence for lying

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Even though Hastert's alleged sexual misconduct occurred 40 years ago, he lied to federal agents recently and that could extend his punishment. (WLS)

An ABC7 I-Team Report
Once among the most powerful politicians in the nation, Dennis Hastert appears to be going out swinging as attorneys for the ex-Speaker of the House are trying to punch back at the sexual misconduct allegations made by the government. They even go so far as suggesting that one so-called victim may not have been subjected to sexual abuse at all.

Hastert will be sentenced in two weeks in federal court in Chicago after pleading guilty to breaking U.S. banking laws. While Hastert has never provided details of why he needed $3.5 million to pay off a former student, prosecutors now say it was buy the silence of the man who was 14-years-old when Hastert abused him.

In a court filing by Hastert's attorneys made public Wednesday, they challenge whether "a groin rub for a groin pull and a massage" were crimes.

"We are not so certain that the incident qualifies as sexual misconduct," they write, "especially for a coach and trainer 42 years ago."

The alleged victim may sue Hastert for $1.4 million leftover from what Hastert has agreed to pay.

"It may bolster Hastert's claim that he did feel himself to be a victim of extortion, or being subject to an extortion and threat because this feels a little like extortion. So it could work to the benefit of the defense, that's why they dropped that into a footnote," says ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer.

CLICK HERE to read the unsealed filing

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The case against former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert appears to be getting worse.



Even though Hastert's alleged sexual misconduct occurred 40 years ago, he lied to federal agents recently and that could extend his punishment.

In so many big legal cases it is the cover-up that does defendants the most damage. And that certainly could be the case with ex-Illinois Congressman DENNIS Hastert, the once powerful Speaker of the House. Hastert's basic wrongdoing started decades ago according to federal law enforcement: sexually abusing teenage boys, resulting in a plan to pay hush money to some victims. A cover-up that authorities say Hastert continued until recently.

Hastert was first questioned by the FBI about a year ago concerning suspicious cash withdrawals from his personal bank accounts. Hastert claimed to federal agents that he was being extorted by a former student.

According to District Judge Tom Durkin, that recent false claim may bedevil Hastert at sentencing two weeks from today.

The ABC7 I-Team has learned that even though Hastert's alleged sexual misconduct occurred 40 years ago, he lied to federal agents recently and that could extend his punishment.

In so many big legal cases it is the cover-up that does defendants the most damage. And that certainly could be the case with ex-Illinois Congressman DENNIS Hastert, the once powerful Speaker of the House. Hastert's basic wrongdoing started decades ago according to federal law enforcement: sexually abusing teenage boys, resulting in a plan to pay hush money to some victims. A cover-up that authorities say Hastert continued until recently.

Soffer says Hastert could pay a price for lying.

"The worst case scenario for Hastert is that he could be sentenced to five years imprisonment, even if the guidelines provide for a lower sentence, even if the government and the defense are agitating for a lower sentence it doesn't matter," Soffer says.

Hastert, now 74-years-old and in failing health, appears to be challenging what is sexual misconduct. In their latest court filing, Hastert's attorneys state that "a groin rub for a groin pull and a massage we are not so certain that the incident qualifies as sexual misconduct..." especially, they say, "for a coach and trainer 42 years ago."

Then they say "regardless of the characterization, Dennis deeply regrets that the episode occurred."

Any regrets Hastert has may be too little and too late. The probation department pre-sentence report that was the subject of Wednesday's federal court hearing states that even though Hastert pleaded guilty in the case, he hasn't accepted responsibility for his behavior and therefore at sentencing should not receive any time off of his sentence.

Hastert and his lawyers will ask for probation and no jail time. The government wants no more than six months. But the judge doesn't have to abide by either of those requests and could hand Hastert up to a five year sentence.
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