Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Pleads Not Guilty

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Amid accusations of sexually abusing at least one young student during his days as an Illinois high school teacher, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is being prosecuted for illegal structuring and lying to the FBI.

June 9, Hastert pled not guilty to the charges. If found guilty, he could face a US$250,000 fine and a maximum of five-years in prison on each of the two counts.

Despite the accusations, Hastert is not facing the court to account for any sex crime. Illinois’ statute of limitations means that Hastert cannot be tried for the alleged sexual abuse, which is said to have happened in the 1960s or 1970s.

The indictment of structuring claims that Hastert made multiple bank withdrawals of less than US$10,000 as part of US$1.7 million in payments made since 2010. It is alleged the money was paid as hush money for his past sex crimes. The indictment of lying to the FBI claims that Hastert lied to FBI agents in telling them that he was withdrawing the money because he did not trust the banks.

Structuring is the act of knowingly and willingly making cash transactions under US$10,000 to avoid the reporting requirement triggered with US$10,000 transactions.

While it may be rewarding to see justice dealt to sex offenders regardless of the tools used by the prosecution, many legal experts are questioning the indictment’s terms. Charges of structuring usually involve money laundering, drug trafficking, or some source of illegally earned income. In Hastert’s case, he paid hundreds of thousands of legally earned dollars, albeit to cover up for a sex crime against a minor.

“In many cases, the most attractive route to take when you can’t prove the underlying crime is to go with the activity that’s in front of you,” said Peter Djinis, former executive assistant director for regulatory policy at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, as quoted in The New York Times.

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