Wednesday, April 27, 2016

thinking about Dennis Hastert and his curious sentence

Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House, was sentenced today to 15 months in federal prison for structuring bank withdrawals so as to sidestep reporting requirements. It isn't illegal to withdraw cash in amounts less than $10,000 but it is illegal to do that in order to keep from being noticed by the feds.

Hastert was making the withdrawals so he could pay a man $3.5 million. He paid $1.7 million before the federal investigation into his withdrawals put a stop to the payments.

Why did he owe $3.5 million? When he was a high school wrestling coach, Hastert molested a boy and, several years ago, Hastert agreed to pay him that amount.

Jacob Sullum, at Reason.com, questions why the government does not see the $3.5 million as blackmail.
...Hastert was paying Individual A, who ultimately received $1.7 million of the promised $3.5 million, to keep their encounter a secret, fearing that other victims would come forward once Individual A made the incident public. Individual A's receipt of hush money certainly seems to meet the terms of the federal blackmail statute. Although it is understandable that federal investigators decided not to pursue that charge once they became convinced that Individual A's claim of abuse was true, it is disingenuous to pretend Hastert was not blackmailed.
In a weird twist, the victim is suing Hastert for the remaining $1.8 million.

The financial investigation uncovered the abuse but the statute of limitations prevents bringing sexual abuse charges against him. Sexually abusing students--sexually abusing anyone--is despicable, of course, but it is worth remembering that the judge was sentencing him for financial wrongdoing, not for sex crimes.

Federal District Court Judge Thomas M. Durkin sentenced him to fifteen months instead of the probation suggested by the defense or the five years requested by the prosecution.
Mr. Hastert... was ordered to pay $250,000 in fines, never to contact his victims and to receive sex-offender treatment.
Why sex offender treatment? Ostensibly, sex offender treatment is to help the offender avoid offending again. When there is no evidence that he has reoffended for decades, why sex offender treatment?

Is it possible the judge sees sex offender treatment as a punishment?
“If there’s a public shaming of the defendant because of the conduct he’s engaged in, so be it,” Judge Durkin said.
With that attitude, it seems the judge does see it that way. Many of those registered citizens who are paying for individual therapy and group therapy at the behest of courts, probation and parole officers--and, for some, at the risk of being sent back to prison if they cannot pay--would agree.

If I seem sympathetic to Hastert, I am not, even though I think his crime does not merit prison time or a $250,000 fine or sex offender treatment. From an article in the National Law Journal:
Hastert’s work on the Adam Walsh Act was “hypocritical and self-serving,” wrote Gail Colletta, the president of the Florida Action Committee, an organization seeking sex registry reform, in a letter filed by the court Tuesday. She asked the judge to impose a sentence longer than the six-month maximum advised by federal guidelines. 
“Hundreds of thousands of individuals and their millions of family members and friends have to live with the draconian punishments he fostered,” Colletta wrote. “These individuals are also the victims of Mr. Hastert’s actions.”
It is not unusual that someone caught up in the criminal justice system receives an unjust sentence. It seems that Hastert may be one of those cases.

I am not happy to see anyone go to prison, especially not a 74-year-old with health issues.

I do hope that Hastert's public humiliation has made him see how wrong he was when he worked to impose that fate on hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens.

1 comment:

Margaret Moon said...

I do agree that Senator Hastert is getting a small, very delayed, dose of the vile "medicine" he helped to force upon other offenders and their families. But, I am disgusted by the way the judge in this case couldn't seem to keep the charges and sentences straight. The statute of limitations had run out on the molestation crimes the Senator committed decades ago so those should NOT have been a matter in this trial. The guidelines for the crime Hastert was being sentenced for had a max of 6 months! This causes me anger on several levels. I am angry that Hastert tried to deflect any guilt from himself and his (possibly existing) conscience by helping to pass the Draconian laws that other offenders and families must suffer. I am disgusted that the judge wrongly made that a factor in a case where it should not have been, and then seemed gleeful that Hastert would experience the public shame that his crimes called for. And finally, I strongly believe that a good, expensive, attorney will get this whole sentence overturned because it is so "bogus" and Hastert will end up serving no time incarcerated.