Day before he pleads guilty, Hastert gets scant support

ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The guilty plea of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is set to be announced Wednesday morning in Chicago federal court - and there is evidence Hastert has already been abandoned by his former supporters.

John Dennis Hastert will appear in court at 9 a.m. to change his plea to guilty, but in the court of public opinion, Hastert has already been sentenced to the cold shoulder. Big-name public figures who run awry of the law can usually count on die hard supporters to send letters of praise to judges in an effort to solicit mercy. Not so the in the case of the USA versus Hastert - where the I-Team has learned the judge's mailbag is nearly empty.

When ex-Speaker Hastert walks the media gauntlet into the federal building on Wednesday, he will be surrounded by dozens of people. But he may still feel very alone, at least according to the barometer of letters written on his behalf.

Since his indictment May 28, only three letters have been received by Judge Thomas Durkin in Chicago, the I-Team has learned.

READ: Letters #1, Letter #2, Letter #3

Shortly after Hastert was charged with currency violations, a woman from California wrote to Judge Durkin: "Last time I checked, it was not illegal to withdraw money from your own bank...where is the crime? If Mr. Hastert was being blackmailed, isn't that a crime?"

"All this is occurring" the woman wrote "in a case with a political background. I hope you will be able to untangle whether or not there were political forces in this case."

When Hastert himself was Speaker of the House - two heartbeats from the presidency -he received glowing letters from U.S. presidents Bush, Carter, Ford, Clinton, and from America's most prominent leaders and from heads of state around the world.

But perhaps given the sordid undercurrent of Hastert's criminal case, not one of Hastert's friends, relatives, neighbors, or former colleagues have written support letters.

The most recent letter, filed this week, was from a man in Connecticut who wrote: "Dennis Hastert deserves a long jail sentence."

"Hastert should get at least 5 years in jail...with a plea bargain on a guilty plea, otherwise give Hastert 10 years," he wrote.

The man said "voters and citizens in the United States deserve better than these type of leaders."

Many times even relatives of defendants write impassioned letters to the court, hoping to tug at a judge's heart. We saw those in the cases of ex-Illinois governors Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan, with supporters pointing to their good works in politics, with charities and in their family lives. Prior to sentencing, those too could come for Mr. Hastert.

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