Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert pleads not guilty to bank charges

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Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert pleaded not guilty to bank-related charges in federal court in Chicago Tuesday. (WLS)

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert pleaded not guilty to bank-related charges in federal court in Chicago Tuesday.

RAW VIDEO: Dennis Hastert arrives at Dirksen Federal Building


The marshals who govern security at the Dirksen Federal Building said that there would be no special courtesies for the former House Speaker. Surrounded by dozens of cameras, Hastert said nothing as he entered the Dirksen and went through security on his journey to arraignment.

His appearance in front of Judge Thomas Durkin lasted all of 17 minutes. Hastert left it to his attorney to say the words "not guilty". When he spoke several times to say "yes sir" to the judge, it was hardly above a whisper.

Pleading not guilty, however, does not mean Hastert wants to go to trial. A trial could bring about testimony from "Individual A", the unnamed recipient of $1.7 million from Hastert, allegedly to buy silence for past misconduct of a sexual nature.

"I think he will avoid trial. It's in his best interest, in my opinion, that he's going to eventually plead guilty. He doesn't want to go to trial and have this on the front page and 6 o'clock news every day," said Prof. Richard Kling, Chicago Kent College of Law.

"We can presume that he'll do all that he can to avoid a trial, if he can avoid it. But that will turn on his assessment of the strength of the evidence and how much the government is willing to do for him in exchange for a plea," said ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer. "He's got top talent that can either negotiate a resolution for him, short of trial, or can take it to trial."

Hastert is accused of offering a total of $3.5 million in hush money to keep "Individual A" silent about the misconduct, which occurred before he became a lawmaker. He allegedly paid out about half of that in more than 100 bank transactions that were just under $10,000 each. He faces charges of violating banking rules and lying to the FBI regarding these transactions.

"In these kind of cases it typically are very, very hard to defend - just on the merits, just on the structuring," said Pat Brady, former federal prosecutor.

Read the full indictment here.

Hastert was originally expected to enter a plea on June 4, but the court date was moved to June 9. Judge Durkin offered to recuse himself over a previous campaign contribution. The lawyers have until June 11 to decide whether or not Durkin will preside over the case.

The man, who was once third in line to the presidency, left the courthouse to a mass of cameras and spectators watching across the street. Hastert had earlier surrendered his passport, must give a DNA sample and surrender any guns in his home. He gave his fingerprints and had a mugshot taken. He faces a future quite different than the one he might have imagined.

RAW VIDEO: Dennis Hastert inside Dirksen Federal Building
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