The Hastert Case: Unequally Applied Justice Is No Justice At All

by Diane Dimond on April 18, 2016

Hastert was Speaker of the US House of Representatives

Hastert was Speaker of the House until 2007

Later this month one of the most powerful men ever to have served in the U.S. House of Representatives will face a federal judge to learn his fate. Dennis Hastert has pleaded guilty to evading U.S. banking laws, illegally structuring payouts to conceal other crimes and lying to the FBI. But that’s only a small part of his sordid story.

It’s a textbook case of why critics are able to say there is one system of justice for the rich and connected and quite another for the rest of us. It’s also another condemnation of our statute of limitations laws that say suspects can’t be tried for certain crimes if too much time has passed. 

Hastert, the longest sitting Republican House Speaker, came to the attention of the feds after he began to systematically began to withdraw large sums of cash in 2010. Court documents reveal bank officials first noticed the activity and under the Patriot Act they were obligated to report the withdrawals to the government. Court documents reveal that FBI agents had immediate suspicions:

Suspicious Withdrawals Flagged the FBI

Suspicious Withdrawals Flagged the FBI

“What was the purpose of withdrawing so much cash and what did defendant do with the money? Was defendant, the former speaker of the United States House of Representatives, a victim of extortion? Was defendant, a lobbyist in communication with domestic and foreign business and political leaders, committing a crime through illegal use of the money?”

By Dec. 2014, the FBI realized Hastert had withdrawn $1.7 million so they arranged a face-to-face interview. Hastert cryptically told FBI agents, “He was not in any kind of trouble. He was taking cash out because he did not think the banks were safe… and he was keeping the cash ‘in a safe place,’ though he would not specify its location,” according to a court filing.

Within a month, a lawyer for Hastert called the FBI to change the story, to explain that the former speaker was, indeed, the victim of an extortion plot. It was agreed that agents would listen in to phone conversations between Hastert and a person referred to as “Individual A.”

Hastert, circa 1976 as Championship HS Coach

Hastert, circa 1976 as Championship HS Coach

It became clear, according to the FBI, that Individual A, who first met Hastert when he was a 14-year-old member of then-coach Hastert’s wrestling team in a small Illinois town, was the real victim – a victim of child sexual abuse at the hands of his coach. The FBI concluded there was no extortion attempt. Hastert, had agreed to pay as much as $3.5 million for the younger man’s silence. That the bank had stumbled upon his withdrawals was Hastert’s downfall.

The prosecutor in the case now reveals at least three other former students from Hastert’s days as a high school coach in the 60’s,70’s and 80’s have also come forward to say they were sexually abused by the once popular and championship-winning coach. One of the students, Steven Reinboldt, has since died but his sister and three other people told the FBI that Steven told them long ago that his first gay experience had been with his coach and that Hastert sexually abused him, “all through high school.”

Hastert, Steven Reinboldt in early 70's Yearbook

Hastert, Steven Reinboldt in early 70’s Yearbook

In Hastert’s pre-sentencing motion to the court he expressed, “deep regret and remorse for his actions decades ago,” but he does not describe those actions. Hastert also denies the dead man’s claim of repeated abuse. At sentencing later this month the former politician’s lawyers are sure to bring up his age – 74 –the stroke he suffered last year and his years of public service as mitigating factors. The prosecution can only ask the court to impose the maximum possible sentence for the former speaker – six months in prison.

That’s right. For what the prosecution calls several “known acts” of child molestation, devising an illegal structured payout scheme to hide his ugly secrets and for repeatedly lying to the FBI John Dennis “Denny” Hastert faces only 6 months behind bars. Something tells me because of who he is, or more specifically who he was, he may get off with no prison time at all. The statute of limitations on sex crimes committed decades ago has long since passed.

Unfortunately, the pain caused by Hastert’s long ago actions has not passed. The sister of the deceased Steven Reinboldt and a victim identified only as Individual D reportedly plan to attend the sentencing hearing to deliver victim impact statements. It won’t constitute real justice but the truth about Hastert’s actions will finally be on the record.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond April 18, 2016 at 9:40 am

Noozhawk Reader Rambler writes:

“No surprises here. Just Republicans doing what Republicans do.”

Reply

Diane Dimond April 18, 2016 at 9:41 am

Dear Ramber,

I’d say its more like the entitled class doing what the entitled class does. Plenty of Democrats have gotten this special treatment too. ~ DD

Reply

Diane Dimond April 18, 2016 at 9:42 am

Noozhawk Reader Capt. Bouchard replies

“Paying for their crimes? So true.

Had Hastert been a Democrat, he’d have gotten off like Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, Gerry Studds, Neil Goldschmidt, Jim McGreevey, John Murtha, Ted Kennedy …”

Reply

Diane Dimond April 18, 2016 at 9:44 am

Creators Syndicate Reader Bill Shepard writes:

“Any mention of the sexual abuse of children by Roman Polanski or Woody Allen? How about Bill Clinton’s bestie, Jeffry Epstein who molests little girls and pimps them out to Prince Andrew? Do they get a pass because they are democrats?”

Reply

Diane Dimond April 18, 2016 at 9:45 am

Dear Bill,

I write a new column every week, Bill, and I’ve been doing so since 2008. Many of the people you mentioned above have been subjects of my past columns. I don’t write from a political point of view — I write about America’s crime and justice system and the common sense we should all apply to its administration. ~ DD

Reply

Diane Dimond April 18, 2016 at 9:46 am

Bill replies,

“Thank you, Diane. I will look for those columns. I believe child molestation is a most gruesome violation and that all perpetrators should be dealt with severely. No statute of limitations should apply. I’m rankled to see Epstein (and Clinton) escape serious consequences, and Allen and Polanski excused because of their popularity. It speaks columns for the direction of our society’s attitude towards children.”

Reply

Diane Dimond April 19, 2016 at 8:16 pm

Facebook Friend Don McMillan writes:

“He certainly deserves a “Time Out” in Attica or somewhere. wink emoticon…”

Reply

Diane Dimond April 19, 2016 at 8:16 pm

Facebook Friend Ralph V. Logan writes:

“I’ll be surprised if he gets any time but he might end up at a Club Med federal min.camp.”

Reply

Diane Dimond April 23, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Linked In Friend Melissa Jo Peltier writes:

“It’s been disturbing to me how under the radar this has been for the major media. This guy was a predator on the loose…and yet no one speaks of it…and when they do, they refer only to the blackmail, not to the crimes. Is this bizarro land? Why isn’t he and his hypocrisy on the front page every day?”

Reply

Lisa April 27, 2016 at 5:50 am

Diane,
I am confused here.
Do you mean to tell me since the representative was taking money out of his own bank account this is what tipped off the FBI?

Don’t get me wrong, don’t get me wrong, but the representative was horrible — it’s just troubling that the FBI will be notified if you’re taking large amount of money out of your own bank account. Can you clarify ?

Reply

Diane Dimond April 27, 2016 at 10:13 am

For a long time, Lisa, the government has tracked large deposits or withdrawals of money by American citizens. By that I mean anything over $10,000. Its a way for Uncle Sam to keep track of those who may be hiding illegally gotten gains (from crime, gambling, extortion, etc) Surveillance of those transactions wasn’t always diligent, however. Then, after 9-11 and with passage of the Patriot’s Act investigations got more intense…thus, Hastert’s withdrawals of sums as high as $100,000 at a time were flagged by bank officials who are bound, by law, to report suspect transactions to the feds.
It doesn’t surprise me that the average citizen doesn’t know about these requirements – because, geez, who among us has lump sums of more than 10k to deposit or withdraw, right? But, believe me most “bad guys” know about this and carefully plan their banking habits, withdrawing only $99.999. at a time or depositing smaller amounts in several different banks. Surprising that former Speaker of the House Hastert didn’t realize his transactions would automatically be flagged. ~ DD

Reply

Lisa May 6, 2016 at 12:56 am

If I had lumps of $100k to take out of my account and got questioned by the FBI, I would be very offended, especially not knowing this. LOL.
Thanks for explaining this.. Learn something new all the time. 🙂

Reply

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