Thursday, April 28, 2016

EXTRA: Can we move on from Hastert?

I hope the general public, or at least the segment of our society that was obsessed with knowing all the sordid details of what it was that one-time Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert did, is satisfied.
How long 'til portrait viewed sympathetically

For on the day this week that Hastert had to appear before a judge (being permitted to sit in his wheelchair even though he tried to stand himself up at the crucial moment), it seems we finally got to know what it was the one-time high school wrestling coach “did” with his boys all those decades ago.

IT SEEMS HE’S a groper. He likes to touch them. He probably justified it in his mind as harmless fun. Just being one of the guys.

But one of them died carrying what he considered to be a shameful secret, and others also felt like they were abused. Which ultimately is the key to understanding such cases.

Hastert may not have intended as such, but it is what he caused.

Which is why the judge in U.S. District Court rejected his statement that he “mistreated” his athletes, and wound up referring to Hastert as a “serial child molester.”

WHICH IS A moment I’m sure made Hastert wince inside. I’m sure he realizes the lede of his obituary is no longer “one-time House Speaker” but instead the words that Judge James Durkin spoke.

It was curious that it all came out this week. Because for the more than a year that this case has been pending, prosecutors have resisted getting into the details of what it was that Hastert did back at Yorkville High School.

For Denny, who in the years after his service in Congress became a lobbyist and finally accumulated some wealth, was using it to pay off at least one person from the past to keep their mouths shut. In fact, one person claims Hastert reneged on the agreement, and now wants their money.

The charges to which Hastert pleaded guilty to and were sentenced for this week were financial violations – he withdrew so much money from his bank accounts and did not report it to the federal government, as is required.

IT’S A LAW meant to go after organized-crime types who deal so much in cash. As a fictional example, remember that episode of “The Sopranos” where we learn Tony has bundles of cash hidden in the bird feed, with the amounts just below the dollar figure that would have to be reported.

There was the sense that the U.S. attorney’s office people who prosecute financial crimes were so eager for their case to not get emotional or sloppy that they were willing to downplay what the money was for.

I’m sure there were many people who were disgusted with the legal proceedings until this week, when the case, according to a Crain’s Chicago Business headline, “live(d) down to all expectations.”

Personally, I wasn’t obsessed with knowing every sordid detail because that’s not what he got the 15-month sentence. I try not to get my kicks from other people’s unseemly moments.

BESIDES, I HAVE covered too many capital crimes proceedings where everybody claims that only execution will ease the pain and suffering. Only to realize it doesn’t. The suffering will be the same for the "victims" regardless of what happened to Hastert. It certainly doesn't matter what that wrestling Hall of Fame does with Denny's memory of his athletic days.

He got the prison sentence that will keep him locked away for just over a year (presuming he behaves himself and doesn’t become a prison disciplinary case). It was even said that federal prisons are equipped to handle older inmates with medical conditions that Hastert’s attorneys tried using to justify a sentence of purely probation.

So now Hastert goes away, so to speak. He does his time. With any luck, he lives out his sentence even though, as Judge Durkin said, his “good name is gone.”

Because it’s a sex-related crime instead of merely financially-related, does this mean the collection of political bribe-takers, shake-down artists and other corrupt politicos we have here in Illinois will think they can look down upon Denny?


EDITOR'S NOTE: I deliberately held off a day before trying to write anything about the Hastert predicament; for fear I'd write hysterics I'd later regret. Besides, both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz acted like goofs on Wednesday, making it possible to take a pass on Denny.

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