Dennis Hastert's defense lawyers file motion to keep crony judge in corruption trial

Judge Thomas Durkin twice contributed to Hastert's campaigns and worked at a law firm with the ex-Speaker's son

By Scott Eric Kaufman

Published June 11, 2015 7:56PM (EDT)

  (AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)
(AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)

Attorneys for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert have signed a waiver that would allow Judge Thomas Durkin -- who contributed to two of Hastert's campaigns before joining the bench -- to preside over Hastert's trial on charges that he engaged in a criminal conspiracy to cover up a relationship with a male student when he was a high school wrestling coach.

According to the indictment, Hastert paid off an unnamed individual to the tune of $3.5 million "in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against" him. An anonymous law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times' Richard Serrano and Timothy M. Phelps that money went to cover up a sexually abusive situation, meaning that the male in question was underage when he had sexual relations with Hastert, or that the relationship was not consensual.

The former representative was charged with illegally structuring currency transactions in order to avoid detection and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hastert surprised many when he pleaded "not guilty" to the charges, because a guilty plea would have allowed him to keep details of the affair out of the public record -- but the fact that a former campaign contributor would be overseeing his trial may have had some impact on his decision.

The prosecution has until 4 p.m. Thursday to decide whether it is willing to allow U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin to continue to preside over the case. Earlier this week, Judge Durkin -- who also admitted to having worked alongside Hastert's son at a law firm -- insisted that he had "no doubt I can be impartial in this matter."

Scott Eric Kaufman

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Corruption Dennis Hastert Politics