More than 40 of ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s former colleagues and family have written letters praising him in an effort to sway the judge who will sentence him next week for paying hush money to someone allegedly abused as a minor decades earlier.
Hastert, the House speaker from 1999 until 2007, pleaded guilty to illegally structuring bank withdrawals to cover up the $1.7 million in cash he paid out to a person he allegedly abused while he was a wrestling coach. Hastert, 74, faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Wednesday.
In a sentencing memo earlier this month, prosecutors alleged Hastert sexually abused at least four wrestlers and a former team equipment manager while he was a coach in Yorkville, Illinois. At least one of the alleged victims is expected to testify on Wednesday, and the sibling of a deceased victim is also expected to speak, according to the Chicago Tribune.
None of this seems to have made much of a difference, however, to the scores of high-profile politicians and others who have spoken up on Hastert's behalf.
Former GOP Rep. Tom DeLay, who served with Hastert in the Republican congressional leadership, submitted a letter in support of Hastert, calling him a man of “strong faith” and “great integrity,” according to Politico. DeLay served as majority leader under Hastert while he was House Speaker.
“We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few,” DeLay wrote. DeLay himself was sentenced to three years in prison on money laundering charges connected to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, although that conviction was later overturned.
While 60 letters were submitted to the court, only 41 were made public because nearly 20 people wanted their letters to stay private or be withdrawn, the Tribune reported. Judge Thomas M. Durkin said he would not consider any letters that were not made public.
Hastert’s wife, Jean, and his sons, Joshua and Ethan, submitted letters praising his work in the community as a teacher and a wrestling coach and his work in politics. Other supporters included local leaders, board members and teachers in Illinois, as well as federal and state leaders.
Former Illinois Attorney General Tyrone Fahner called Hastert a “kind, strong, principled, and unselfish man,” according to the Tribune.
Ex-CIA leader Porter Goss wrote that many in the House saw Hastert as "Mr. Main Street, USA."
The news that so many of Hastert's peers were standing by him turned him into a trending topic on Saturday.