Monday, July 29, 2019

So is this now the Denny Hastert law?

J. Dennis Hastert of Yorkville used to be thought of as one of the few Illinoisans to ever rise all the way to the rank of Speaker of the House of Representatives, and is actually the longest-serving Republican to ever hold that all-powerful political position.
HASTERT: Is this now lis legacy?

One that actually puts its occupant in line for the U.S. presidency in the event of an emergency that takes down both the president and vice-president.

BUT JUST AS Dan Rostenkowski fell from grace and the notion he was the all-powerful chairman of House ways and means, Hastert also took a plunge in reputation.

To the point where he probably has experienced an even bigger fall. Which is illustrated by the new law in Illinois approved by Gov. J.B. Pritzker that relates to statute of limitations for people to be charged with sex crimes.

It now seems that aggravated criminal sexual assault and abuse are now the equivalent of murder – as in there’s no amount of time that can pass without someone running the risk of criminal prosecution.

Come Jan. 1, anybody facing criminal suspicion can face prosecution if state’s attorney officials somewhere are capable of putting together a criminal case. Whereas it used to be that prosecutors had 10 years to put together a criminal case – AND the case had to be reported to police within three years of the alleged incident’s occurrence.

THIS LAW WAS enacted because of political people who wanted to appear to be doing something significant in response to the predicament caused by Hastert – who once was a high school teacher and wrestling coach who later in life had some of his former students claim he took liberties with them of a sexual nature.

The incidents supposedly occurred back when Hastert was their teacher and coach in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it wasn’t until the mid-2010s that the allegations became public.

Which meant that even if sufficient evidence could be procured, so much time had passed that Hastert was never in danger of criminal prosecution.
PRITZKER: Signed the measure into law

But it was because of actions that Hastert took to try to keep people from talking about things that eventually resulted in J. Dennis being found guilty of something criminal – which resulted in him getting a prison term (he’s been free for a couple of years now) and becoming the highest-ranking government official to ever have to serve time for a crime. While also proving the notion that it's the cover-up, and not the crime itself, that gets you in the most trouble!

WHICH HAVE SOME people convinced that something wasn’t fair. Which also is what motivated legislators of both Republican and Democratic partisan leanings to sponsor the bill that passed overwhelmingly this spring before getting Pritzker’s approval last week.

So now, theoretically, we could have prosecuted Hastert for the crime, instead of the technicality. Although I have to admit to being a bit wary of such incidents.

Usually because the passage of so much time means the actual evidence becomes weaker, more heresay, to be honest.

To be honest, the strongest criminal cases are the ones whose defendants literally are caught in the act right at the time of their alleged criminal occurrence.

WHICH IS THE point of statute of limitations laws – acknowledging that there are some instances where it is not practical to punish someone for something that happened many years ago and where people might have been too ashamed to talk about it at the time of occurrence.

Although some see that as a good thing (it means sexual predators cannot escape their actions ever) and a bad (people may wind up getting prosecuted and convicted based on testimony from people whose memories may not be quite as accurate as they once were due to the passage of time).

Not that I don’t doubt some people aren’t going to let that possibility concern them – they may want more prosecution, regardless of how solid the charges may be.

And Hastert’s contribution to our public discourse may well be something he did long before his 8 years as House Speaker (and 20 years in Congress overall) back in the days when he was a nobody to the masses – and “coach” to a select few individuals living out in what some of us would have dismissed as “the boonies” of the Chicago area.


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