Former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to federal investigators and breaking banking laws in connection to hush money payments.
Hastert was arraigned at a federal court in Chicago, where he made his first public appearance since the indictment against him was released on May 28. He was ushered into the courthouse through a throng of reporters and later left the building without taking any questions. He will remain on release on a $4,500 bond.
The former Speaker entered his plea to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, who has caught headlines for previously donating to Hastert’s congressional campaign before his appointment to the bench.
Durkin addressed the fact during the hearing and gave lawyers until Thursday to object to his continuing to preside over the case, according to The Associated Press.
The judge also set the conditions for Hastert’s pretrial release, ordering him to stay in the country, not violate any laws, provide DNA if requested by the court, and not contact any potential victim or witness, the AP reported. Hastert has already turned over his passport to authorities, according to his defense team.
Veteran Washington-based lawyer Thomas Green with the Sidley Austin law firm that has an office and deep political ties in Chicago, where the case was filed, represented Hastert at the court proceeding.
Barring any plea agreement, the case will move to trial, where accusations of sexual misconduct against the former Speaker could be aired in public.
Each of the two charges against Hastert carries up to five years in prison.
Federal prosecutors accuse Hastert of breaking bank laws after agreeing to pay $3.5 million in hush money to conceal “prior misconduct” against an unnamed individual. They also allege that Hastert lied to investigators about $1.7 million in structured bank withdrawals meant to flout those laws.
Last week, ABC’s “Good Morning America” interviewed the sister of Stephen Reinboldt, who claimed that Hastert sexually abused her brother while he served as the wrestling team’s equipment manager. But she said she didn’t know the "Individual A" mentioned in the indictment, and that her brother died of AIDS in 1995.
The accusations threaten the reputation of the longest-serving Republican Speaker in history, who ascended to the gavel at a time when Republicans were searching for a leader beyond reproach.
When his predecessor, Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-S.C.), stepped down after a losing midterm elections and swirling ethics accusations, Hastert had not been his heir apparent. That designation belonged to Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), who pulled himself out of the running after admitting to an affair.
Republicans turned to Hastert, who became Speaker in early 1999.
— Jesse Byrnes contributed
— Updated at 7:17 p.m.