Politicians, family among letter-writers asking leniency for Hastert

Five former U.S. congressmen, a onetime Illinois attorney general, and state politicians are among 41 people who've written letters in support of disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert in advance of his sentencing next week on charges he violated banking laws in a hush money payout to suppress sexual abuse allegations.

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, former Illinois Attorney General Tyrone C. Fahner, and former Florida congressman Porter J. Goss, who served as CIA director under President George W. Bush, are among those whose letters Hastert attorneys filed with the court late Friday.

Fahner is a partner in the law firm Mayer Brown, an international heavyweight with offices in Chicago, where Hastert's son Ethan Hastert is also a partner. Mayer Brown also counts among its former partners U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin, who is presiding over Hastert's case.

Jean Hastert, the former congressman's wife of 43 years; his sons; and his brothers also wrote letters attesting to Hastert's character and professional accomplishments and asking for leniency, as did friends, business associates, campaign staffers and former students of the onetime high school teacher and wrestling coach.

Other letters were written, but lawyers for Hastert said in their filing Friday that they did not enter letters into the court file unless the writer gave permission to do so after Judge Durkin ordered he would consider only those that were made public.

Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty in October to structuring bank withdrawals to avoid federal reporting requirements in order to pay $3.5 million to a man known only as Individual A. Prosecutors say it was hush money to ensure his silence about Hastert's past sexual misconduct during his time as a coach and teacher at Yorkville High School. Prosecutors say Hastert sexually abused at least four boys during his tenure from 1965 to 1981.

Hastert cannot be prosecuted on those charges because the statute of limitations has run out.

Delay asked for leniency for his former House colleague, writing: "We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few. He is a good man that loves the Lord. ... He doesn't deserve what he is going through."

Jean Hastert described her husband as honorable and devoted. Describing the toll on Hastert and their family, she expressed concern about his failing health.

"I worry about how much time we will ever get together. I am particularly worried that if he is taken from his home and the care he needs, his health will continue to deteriorate."

Hastert's sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in federal court in Chicago. Prosecutors say one man who said he was abused by Hastert and the sister of another man who has died might testify against Hastert.

Durkin, the brother of longtime Illinois House Republican leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, acknowledged at Hastert's 2015 arraignment that he had a working relationship with Hastert's son and that he had donated a total of $1,500 to Hastert's campaign in 2002 and 2004 but said he never met him. Durkin said he could be impartial and both sides agreed to have him preside over the case.

• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.

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