A plea agreement is being discussed in the hush-money case of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), attorneys told a judge in Chicago yesterday, the Associated Press reports. That means potentially embarrassing details about the underlying actions in the case may never be released in court. Hastert, who led the U.S. House for nine years, has pleaded not guilty to charges that accuse him of skirting federal banking laws in an attempt to pay someone $3.5 million to hide claims of past misconduct. An indictment alleges that Hastert agreed to pay the money to a person identified only as “Individual A,” and offers no details about the alleged misconduct. AP and other media have reported the payments were intended to conceal claims of sexual misconduct decades ago.
The disclosure of a possible plea agreement came during a pre-trial hearing in Chicago, after U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin asked both sides why there were so many delays in the case. Experts said Hastert has a strong incentive reach a plea agreement. They said prosecutors would likely provide jurors with information about the underlying allegations that aren’t detailed in the indictment, such as the identity of “Individual A.” “That’s the sword they have hanging over his head,” said Andrew Herman, a Washington-based attorney who has represented clients targeted by ethics investigations in Congress. Herman said prosecutors also have an incentive to reach agreement because their case is “not a slam dunk.” He added, “This case is a classic case where it is in everybody’s interest to reach a plea,” he said.