Dennis Hastert is serving a 15-month prison term in a hush-money case that stemmed from his sexual abuse of students when he taught at an Illinois public school over 35 years ago—and the ex-US House speaker is now pointing to a technicality to argue that a state body should restore his $17,000-a-year teacher's pension that it yanked after his April 27 sentencing, the AP reports. A recent letter from the 74-year-old's lawyer to the agency overseeing the pensions notes his conviction was not for sexual abuse when he was at Yorkville High School from 1965 to 1981: It was for one count of violating banking law by withdrawing cash from 2010 to 2014 as he sought to pay one victim $3.5 million to ensure his silence. On those grounds, the letter argues, his teacher's pension can't be revoked.
State law is clear that pensions can be revoked for serious crimes teachers committed as teachers. The revocation of Hastert's teacher's pension by the Teachers' Retirement System was "improper, invalid, and unconstitutional," in part because he was charged with banking crimes that occurred over three decades after he was in teaching, Mark DeBofsky wrote in an August 29 letter released this month. It also challenges an order that Hastert pay back $222,000 he already withdrew in teacher's pension money. Had Hastert been convicted of abusing students, there would be no question that withdrawing his pension was legal—and prosecutors made clear that, if they could have charged Hastert with sexual abuse, they would have, had the statute of limitations not expired decades ago. Hastert's attorneys will get a chance to present arguments and even call witnesses during an administrative review. If the TRS board refuses to restore the teacher's pension, he could take the matter to court.