Former House Speaker Hastert pleads guilty in hush-money case

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Dennis Hastert to Plead Guilty in 'Hush-Money' Case

CHICAGO (Reuters) -- Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges of evading bank rules about large cash transactions after reaching a deal with prosecutors in a hush-money case stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct.

Federal prosecutors recommended a sentence of zero to six months in prison for Hastert, but the judge said he could potentially sentence him to up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced in February.

See photos of Dennis Hastert throughout the trial:

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Former House Speaker Hastert pleads guilty in hush-money case
Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert leaves after a guilty plea at Dirksen U.S. Courthouse on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 in Chicago. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 15: Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) walks through Statuary Hall on his way to the House floor to make his farewell address to Congress November 15, 2007 in Washington, DC. He announced his resignation today and said he will leave office before the end of December. Hastert, 65, announced in August he would not seek reelection in 2008. Hastert was the longest-serving Republican speaker in U.S. history, and the first speaker since 1955 to remain in Congress after losing the speakership. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Dennis Hastert, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, attends the annual meeting of the Iranian resistance, presided over by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Villepinte, near Paris, on June 22, 2013. Some 500 parliamentarians from the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Arab countries were expected to join the gathering on June 22, one week after Hassan Rowhani, a moderate cleric, was declared winner of Iran's presidential election, ending an eight-year conservative grip on the Islamic republic's administration under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Maryam Rajavi, president of the NCRI, denounced the 'sham election' in Iran and called on the West to stand firm with respect to Hassan Rohani, 'responsible for the machine or repression'. AFP PHOTO / JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JULY 28: Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (C) is joined by current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) during a ceremony unveiling Hastert's portrati at the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hastert is the longest serving Republican speaker to date, holding the post from 1999-2007. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The plea to one count of "structuring" - taking money out of the bank in amounts below $10,000 to evade bank reporting rules on large cash movements - marks a dramatic downfall for someone who once ranked among the country's most powerful politicians.

Hastert, 73, told District Judge Thomas Durkin that he knew that what he was doing was wrong in a hearing that lasted a little over 20 minutes.

"I didn't want them to know how I intended to spend the money," he said in a one-sentence statement.

In the plea agreement he admitted to paying $1.7 million in cash to an individual he had known for decades, in order to buy that person's silence regarding past misconduct and to compensate for the misconduct.

The indictment and the plea do not mention sexual misconduct, but unnamed law enforcement officials have told media that the past misconduct was sexual and involved someone Hastert knew when he was a teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois.

A separate charge of lying to the FBI was dismissed in the case.

Hastert, stooped, white-haired and wearing a gray suit, remains free on bail pending a sentencing hearing on Feb. 29.

Hastert and his lawyers declined to comment to reporters on leaving the courthouse. The former speaker has not spoken publicly since his indictment in May.

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