Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrived at a Chicago court on Wednesday where he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison for a financial crime related to accusations of sex abuse when he was a high school wrestling coach decades ago.
Hastert, once one of the most powerful figures in Washington as the longest-serving House speaker from 1999 through 2007, was pushed into the federal courthouse in a wheelchair.
Attorneys for Hastert, 74, who was hospitalized last year for a blood infection and also suffered a stroke, have asked for a probation-only sentence because of his health, remorse and long history of public service.
One of Hastert’s accusers, who was a 17-year-old wrestler when he claims Hastert performed a sex act on him after a practice, is expected to testify at the sentencing hearing.
The person, named as Individual D in court documents, will be the first of five accusers identified by federal prosecutors to make a public statement about Hastert. The sister of another accuser, who is now deceased, is also expected to testify.
Prosecutors had asked for a maximum six-month sentence, plus probation, in exchange for Hastert’s guilty plea in October to a financial crime known as structuring, which entails withdrawing large sums of money in small increments to evade bank rules about reporting major cash movements. Hastert was paying the money to one of his alleged victims.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin has the discretion to impose a sentence of up to five years, the statutory maximum.
Prosecutors have argued that not only has Hastert been accused of abusing teenage wrestlers in his hometown of Yorkville, Illinois, when he was a coach before being elected to Congress but he also lied to federal authorities who asked him in 2014 about the cash withdrawals.
Hastert, who became a lobbyist after leaving Congress, told agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he was being extorted by someone who had falsely accused him of abuse.
The agents listened in on telephone calls Hastert had with that person, identified only as Individual A.
Federal prosecutors have said it became clear Hastert had agreed to pay Individual A $3.5 million to compensate him for pain and suffering from sexual abuse when he was 14.
That accuser is not expected to testify. On Monday, using the name James Doe, he sued Hastert for $1.8 million, saying he had received only $1.7 million of the promised compensation.
Hastert was not charged with sex abuse because the statute of limitations had run out.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Bill Trott)
Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers
The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Trump is deploying national guardsman to provide pandemic support without any health benefits: report
The National Guard are an essential part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of them have potentially been exposed to infected civilians, making it a particularly dangerous and important time to serve.
But according to The Daily Beast, the guard has been deployed in a way that prevents them from being eligible for the military's health care system.
"The approximately 20,000 guardsmen who have been called up to help states around the country deal with the spread of the coronavirus are federalized on what’s called Title 32 status, which puts them in command of their various state governors but with the federal government paying costs," wrote senior national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman. "But according to the National Guard’s advocates and the U.S. governors’ association, the guardsmen are activated on orders that last 30 days. That puts them one single day shy of the requirement allowing the military health insurance system known as TRICARE — think of it as Medicare For All In Uniform — to cover them."
Vaccine researchers grew ‘alarmed’ as Trump’s CDC wasted weeks of their time with a flawed coronavirus test: report
According to a report from the Washington Post, in the early days as health officials became concerned about the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic blossoming out of China, researchers sat and wasted days they could have used to start developing a vaccine because they were assured by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a testing kit was on its way.
As it turned out, that test was flawed.
Relying on emails and interviews, the Post is reporting, "On a Jan. 15 conference call, a leading scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured local and state public health officials from across the nation that there would soon be a test to detect a mysterious virus spreading from China. Stephen Lindstrom told them the threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing 'unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate,' according to an email summarizing the call."