Prosecutors say when they questioned Hastert about his large cash withdrawals he told them he was being extorted by someone making a false claim of sex abuse.He has never been charged with sex abuse, or even accused of it in a civil suit. So we should assume that he is innocent of that, as I assume that people are innocent until proven guilty.
In the court filing, prosecutors say Hastert agreed to let investigators record phone conversations he had with the man who later became known as "Individual A."
Prosecutors say "Individual A's tone and comments" during the conversations "were inconsistent with someone committing extortion." They say he didn't seem angry when Hastert told him he was having trouble getting money.
Agents then questioned Individual A, who told them about abuse that occurred when he was 14.
Hastert has pleaded guilty to violating banking laws.
So what was Hastert's crime? The heart of the charge is that Hastert described Individual A to federal agents in terms that seemed inconsistent to the agents' interpretation of "Individual A's tone and comments" on the wiretaps.
Another AP story has more details:
Hastert made 15 withdrawals of $50,000 — for a total of $750,000 — from 2010 to 2012. It's what he did next that made his actions a crime. After learning withdrawals over $10,000 are flagged, he withdrew cash in smaller increments, taking out $952,000 from 2012 to 2014.If all this is true, then Hastert was a victim of extortion, and Individual A should be charged with a crime, not Hastert.
The case had been shrouded in secrecy since Hastert was indicted in May 2015. Prosecutors only confirmed at a March hearing that sex-abuse claims were at its core.
Hastert's fear, prosecutors said Friday, was that if he didn't pay Individual A "it would increase the chance that other former students he molested would tell their stories." Burdge had already confronted Hastert at her brother's funeral and he could see "she had been deeply affected by what defendant did to her brother, and she was likely to tell her story publicly if anyone would listen."
Court records say Hastert managed to pay $1.7 million to Individual A — handing it over in lump sums of $100,000 cash — starting in 2010. The payments stopped late in 2014 after FBI agents questioned Hastert about his cash withdrawals. Prosecutors said Friday that it was a bank compliance officer who spotted the huge withdrawals.
The feds knew about the cash withdrawals, and knew that Hastert was buying Individual A's silence, so what is Hastert's crime?
Even assuming that Hastert behaved inappropriately, and that he would be embarrrassed by a public revelation, it does not follow that he committed a crime. In Individual A believes that he was harmed, then he could sue for damages. But it is a crime for Individual A to extort money for silence, even if there was a crime.
The filing recommends that a federal judge sentence Hastert to up to six months in prison for violating banking laws as he sought to pay one of his victims, identified in court documents as "Individual A," to ensure the person kept quiet. The sex-abuse allegations date to Hastert's time at Yorkville High School in the Chicago suburb of Yorkville from 1965 to 1981.Six months for this? And the feds continue to protect the extortionist by concealing his name.
Individual A's name should be revealed in an extortion indictment. He could have made a police complaint 35 years ago. He could have sued. He could have gone public with his story when Hastert was Speaker of the House, and destroyed his career. All of those things might be defensible. But collecting a million dollars in secret cash transaction 40 years later after threatening to go public? Indefensible.
You might say that if Hastert is a child molester, then he deserves whatever he gets. I disagree.
First of all, we don't know that he was a molester. Only that he is privately and anonymously accused of doing something inappropriate.
Secondly, is that really how child molestation should be handled? That molestation victims can just wait 40 years for the perp to get rich on his reputation, and then extort suitcases full of cash under threats to destroy that reputation?
Just think about that. It is impossible for Hastert today to prove that nothing bad happened 40 years ago. It is his word against the accusers. Admittedly, Hastert looks bad by making the payoffs, but maybe he or someone else in that position might just make the payoff rather than face an ugly fight over false accusations.