By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO – A defense attorney for former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert complained to a federal judge on Thursday about leaks to the media, which he said could interfere with his client’s right to a fair trial on money transaction charges.
Hastert has pleaded not guilty to charges of trying to hide cash transactions and lying to the FBI about it. The Illinois Republican allegedly paid close to $2 million to an individual to conceal past misconduct. Media reports have said the misconduct involved sexual contact with a male student while he was a teacher and coach in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Something has to be done to stop the leaks,” attorney Thomas Green told U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, speaking at a status hearing by phone. “They’re unconscionable and they have to stop.”
Green said he was concerned about possible prejudice from the leaks and that he was considering filing a pre-trial motion to prevent them.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block said prosecutors shared the defense concern. Durkin said he could not take action on the issue unless either side filed a motion.
Earlier in the week, Durkin had granted a protective order from prosecutors, which asked that some sensitive information in the case not be disseminated because it would adversely affect “the privacy interests of third parties.” Hastert’s attorneys did not oppose the motion.
But Durkin said on Thursday he needs a “compelling reason” to seal anything in the public record. He also said if he relied on sealed material to make a ruling, it may need to be unsealed.
Hastert, who is free on bond, did not appear at the hearing. The next status hearing is set for July 14.
According to the indictment, Hastert withdrew $1.7 million in cash from his bank accounts from 2010 to 2014. He is charged with “structuring” $952,000 of those withdrawals, taking the funds out in increments of less than $10,000 to evade the requirement that banks have to report large cash transactions.
Prosecutors allege he promised to pay $3.5 million to an individual from his hometown of Yorkville, Illinois, where he was a teacher and wrestling coach at the local high school.
Hastert was the longest-serving Republican U.S. House of Representatives speaker, a position he held from 1999 to 2007.