Release Date: October 28, 2015
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty on Wednesday to trying to evade federal banking laws. But that is not the conduct that people find most problematic, says Anthony O’Rourke, University at Buffalo associate professor of law.
The guilty plea, says O’Rourke, allows Hastert to avoid a trial where damaging details about why he agreed to pay hush money to someone from his past could come out.
“This is what some call an Al Capone prosecution where prosecutors are seeking to indict and convict someone for a charge unrelated to conduct people take most issue with – paying money to someone he allegedly sexually molested,” says O’Rourke, who teaches criminal procedure and legislation. “That is what makes this such an interesting case.”
But it is unclear if any of those details will come out during the sentencing hearing.
The actual charges – evading federal banking laws – are fairly easy to prove and carry a low penalty, O’Rourke says. The typical penalty calls for up to six months in prison.
Defendants don’t usually get any prison time for this type of charge, O’Rourke says, but he does think Hastert will be sentenced to prison time within that six month range. This is not a ‘typical’ defendant, he says.
“Judges are only human,” he says. “The political visibility of this case and the fact that there is a very public knowledge of what has been alleged could certainly play a tacit role when it comes to sentencing.”