US & Canada

Dennis Hastert pleads guilty in hush money case

Hastert walking on a sidewalk into court Image copyright Getty Images

Former US Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert has pleaded guilty in a case tied to hush money.

The 73-year-old was charged with lying and breaking financial laws in an attempt to pay $3.5m (£2.3m) to cover up "misconduct".

The admission is part of deal with prosecutors that could see Mr Hastert serve up to six months in prison.

The plea represents a dramatic fall for the former senior US politician.

The plea agreement, seen by the BBC, says that Mr Hastert "agrees to enter a voluntary plea of guilty to Count 2", which charged him with "structuring and assisting in structuring currency transactions".

"Structuring" is a term used to describe the act of removing several small sums of money (in this case less than $10,000) in order to avoid rules that require banks to report large transactions.

Count 1 alleged that Mr Hastert had lied to the FBI during the investigation. The agreement says that prosecutors will ask for this charge to be dismissed once the sentence for Count 2 has been imposed.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Court proceedings lasted a little over 20 minutes

Media reports suggest the charges may be connected to his history as a teacher and wrestling coach in Illinois in the 1970s.

One woman has said Mr Hastert sexually abused her brother then and she believes he was not the only victim.

Mr Hastert was not charged with sexual abuse as part of the case.

Jolene Burdge told ABC News in June that her late brother Steve Reinboldt never came forward about the alleged abuse because he feared "no-one would believe him".

She said he told her about the abuse in 1979, when he revealed he was gay.

The FBI interviewed Ms Burdge, who has considered coming forward with her brother's story in the past, in May.

Ms Burdge never asked Mr Hastert for money, but she thinks the unnamed person cited in the case as being paid off knows what happened to her brother.

Mr Hastert served as speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007, when he resigned from the chamber after the Republicans lost control.

He was first elected to the House in 1987.

More on this story