As expected, Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty Wednesday in a convoluted case that involves allegations he sexually abused a student as a high school wrestling coach. What he pleaded to was lying to the FBI about shady bank transfers made in recent years. Prosecutors say Hastert was shuffling money around illegally to make payments to an unidentified person, with sources saying they were blackmail payments related to the sex-abuse allegations. The Washington Post notes the brief hearing neither revealed why Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to "Individual A" nor who Individual A is. As part of the plea deal, federal prosecutors are recommending a prison sentence of up to six months. Hastert will be sentenced Feb. 29; the judge has the ability to hand him up to five years.
When the judge asked him to describe his wrongdoing in his own words, Hastert read from a brief written statement that—like his indictment—focused on how he technically broke banking laws. He told the court that he had been withdrawing cash $50,000 at a time. After banking officials questioned him, he began taking out less than $10,000 to avoid reporting requirements. NBC News reports Hastert "illegally structured" $952,000 in total withdrawals; $1.7 million in payments were made to Individual A, per the indictment. Speaking in a halting voice and losing his place in the text at one point, he described why he lied to the FBI: "I didn't want them to know how I intended to spend the money." The judge asked Hastert, "Did you know that what you were doing was wrong?" He responded, "Yes, sir." (Read more Dennis Hastert stories.)