Hastert Said to Reach Plea on Secret Payoffs

     CHICAGO (CN) – Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is set to plead guilty to charges that he arranged a secret payoff and lied to the FBI about it, The New York Times is reporting.
     The 73-year-old prominent Republican initially pleaded not guilty to the two counts against him: structuring cash transfers to evade currency transaction reports, and making a false statement to the FBI. Court records do not yet reflect that he is nearing a plea deal, and it is unclear as to which charges he will change his plea.
     Prosecutors claimed that Hastert had arranged cash withdrawals to pay an unnamed individual $3.5 million in hush money to keep him from going public with claims that Hastert touched him inappropriately.
     Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville from 1965 to 1981, and the indictment describes the man he paid off as “a resident of Yorkville, Ill.,” who has known Hastert for most of his or her life.
     Prosecutors said the payoffs began in 2010, when “Individual A” and Hastert “discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.”
     In 2009, the year before the alleged payoffs began, Hastert retired from Congress and became a lobbyist. He began his first term in 1986 and became speaker in 1999 after Newt Gingrich stepped down, facing ethics problems.
     Attorneys for Hastert decried the allegations of sexual misconduct as “an 800-pound gorilla that has been injected in the case impermissibly and wrongfully.”
     Pleading guilty will likely allow Hastert to avoid the disclosure of this student’s identity, as well as other digging into his reasons for violating financial laws.
     The case had been quiet since summer, with no new filings aside from several successful requests to push back hearing dates.

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