Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges of evading bank rules about large cash transactions after reaching a deal with prosecutors in a hush-money case stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct, Reuters reports.
Federal prosecutors recommended a sentence of zero to six months in prison for Hastert, but the judge said he could potentially sentence him to up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced in February.
The plea to one count of “structuring” – taking money out of the bank in amounts below $10,000 to evade bank reporting rules on large cash movements – marks a dramatic downfall for someone who once ranked among the country’s most powerful politicians.
Hastert, 73, told District Judge Thomas Durkin that he knew that what he was doing was wrong in a hearing that lasted a little over 20 minutes.
“I didn’t want them to know how I intended to spend the money,” he said in a one-sentence statement.
In the plea agreement he admitted to paying $1.7 million in cash to an individual he had known for decades, in order to buy that person’s silence regarding past misconduct and to compensate for the misconduct.
The indictment and the plea do not mention sexual misconduct, but unnamed law enforcement officials have told media that the past misconduct was sexual and involved someone Hastert knew when he was a teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois.
A separate charge of lying to the FBI was dismissed in the case.