Hastert Defense Complains of ‘800-Lb. Gorilla’

     CHICAGO (CN) – A trial timeline took shape today for the prosecution of Dennis Hastert, the beleaguered former speaker of the House of Representatives.
     The 73-year-old prominent Republican is charged with structuring $952,000 in cash withdrawals to evade currency-transaction reports and lying to the FBI about it.
     Prosecutors say Hastert used the withdrawals as hush money for an unnamed individual that he allegedly touched inappropriately while serving as a high school wrestling coach.
     Tuesday’s was the first major hearing before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin since Hastert’s not-guilty plea, and the first development since the court entered a sweeping protective order.
     “This case presents special problems,” defense attorney John Gallo said. “The way it was pled, with allegations of past misconduct, there’s now an 800-pound gorilla that has been injected in the case impermissibly and wrongfully.”
     In addition to seeking the dismissal of specific parts of the indictments, Gallo said he plans to file “a motion to strike surplusage from the indictment and one to dismiss it, possibly filed under seal.”
     Prosecutor Steven Block cited these motions in calling it “premature to set a trial date.”
     With the defense uncertain as to whether its motions would require evidentiary hearings, Block noted that “suspicious activity reports, or SARs, prepared by the government” regarding Hastert would likely need to be obtained by subpoena.
     Hastert’s side has until Aug. 31 to file its motions, with the government’s answer due Sept. 21 and the defense reply due Oct. 5.
     The next status hearing is set for the morning of Oct. 20. The government estimated two weeks for trial.
     Judge Durkin noted that there is no need for Hastert to attend the October hearing.

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