Even if former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert avoids prison time after his guilty plea, the damage to his reputation has been done.
Hastert pleaded guilty to structuring his bank withdrawals to get around reporting requirements as he paid off someone known only as “Individual A,” supposedly to cover up decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct.
The recommended prison sentence in his plea ranges from no jail time to six months. Ann Lousin, a constitutional law professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, predicts Hastert will avoid prison time, but the case means no politicians will be calling on him for endorsements or expertise.
“He’s now technically a convicted felon on the federal level. Who would hire him as a lobbyist? Who could hire him for anything?” Lousin said. “I’m sorry about that, but…that’s the end of his public career.”
Lousin says Hastert once had an “impeccable reputation” in public office, but his career was not without controversy, such as when he was accused of taking a bribe from the Turkish government to kill a U.S. House resolution recognizing the 1915 Armenian genocide.
Lousin says she’s not surprised at the recommended sentence being reduced from the maximum penalty of five years, but she is surprised that Hastert didn’t act differently when “Individual A” first demanded money from him in 2010 and ask for help from law enforcement.
“I’m willing to wear a wire to see if we can trap this person into making these allegations on a wire,” Lousin said, referencing what Hastert could have done. “I’m surprised he didn’t do that, he must have panicked.”
Hastert isn’t due back in court for sentencing until February 29.