Wednesday, October 28, 2015


It may not be a problem a typical American daily faces, yet providing hush money, lying to the FBI about it and then being subjected to criminal prosecution for encroaching on the $10,000 bank limits is a signal that in the United States our Federal prosecutors and FBI agents have far too much leverage to force guilty pleas in questionable cases. I'm referring of course to former house speaker Dennis Hastert's plea of guilty in federal court this morning. My hope was that somehow this train wreck would be avoided and that better minds in search of authentic American justice, perhaps even a federal judge, would prevail in stopping his change of plea to guilty.

An American flag smothers Speaker Hastert 
This case stinks. Let's count the ways. First, federal prosecutors and/or federal agents broke federal law by leaking information about the case to taint the defense and benefit the federal prosecution. When Hastert was arrested, law enforcement let it be known that $3.5 million in hush money had been paid by Hastert to keep a long ago possible victim of child abuse from publicly identifying him as a former sexual batterer or predator of children. Why the leak by the feds? Because someone desperate enough to pay that kind of hush money, would do anything to avoid a public trial that airs out everything.

Second, Hastert foolishly talked to the FBI agents without a federal criminal defense attorney being present. The indictment details the essence of the actual provable crime established by the government - that Hastert lied to FBI agents about why he was taking out large sums of cash in $50,000 increments. He stated that he didn't trust the banking system when in truth he was paying hush money. So what does the FBI do? Rather than investigate the possible blackmail Hastert was subjected to, it pulled out the infamous Martha Stewart option of charging federal felonies for not being honest with FBI agents. When one ponders the Stalinist aspect of these statutes how can one help but think they are un-American. No wonder as a condition of his change of plea to the more substantial charges this one was dropped as a condition of the change of plea and the federal plea agreement. But make no mistake this was the dagger that with the leaked publicity of the hush money forced Hastert to change his plea to guilty.

Third, the federal prosecutors and the FBI have placed themselves in the unfortunate position of appearing to condone blackmail. Whatever Hastert did or didn't do the FBI investigation revealed that he broke the banking law in order to provide a substantial amount of money to keep a dark secret hidden. 

As for the alleged blackmailer, did he report this windfall of cash as income and pay proper taxes on it? Did he place the cash in banks under the $10,000 limit in an attempt to skirt the banking law, thus breaking it? Was the alleged blackmailer as direct and honest with the FBI agents as Hastert was when they came to say hello? Was the agreement of payments between the alleged blackmailer and the congressman simply a cover for another crime? 

Finally, Hastert is 73 years of age and does not appear to be in good health. A reasonable prosecution and investigation would take his age, health and the underlying facts of his situation into account in making a finding that it would be in no ones best interest to prosecute Hastert least of all whoever it was who was  blackmailing him. Congressman or Blackmailer balance the words on your tongue till they both come spitting out. 

And now what will happen to Hastert? Isn't it punishment enough that this man must admit he was once a Congressman and was even elected their speaker? Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that the Federal sentencing judge must use in determine a fair sentence for Hastert he could receive up to five years for the crime, but more likely under the prevailing federal sentencing scoresheet a sentence of between zero to six months is likely.