I hate pedophiles. I see nearly every day the damage to children when adults are abusers.
Last week former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison, ostensibly for a single count of evading the Bank Secrecy Act’s reporting requirements by withdrawing money in amounts below $10,000. I say “ostensibly” because Hastert’s real crimes were committed decades ago, when (as he now admits) he sexually abused teenagers on the wrestling team he coached in Illinois. But since the statute of limitations for those crimes has expired, it is only the coverup for which Hastert can legally be punished—specifically, for paying hush money to one of his victims in a way designed to avoid the government’s attention. That “structuring” charge became a pretext for giving Hastert a taste of the punishment he might have received if his sexual abuse had come to light sooner.
“Because the statute of limitations for your child molestation ran out many years ago,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin observed during the sentencing hearing, “you can’t be charged for that. It’s not what you were charged with, it’s not what you’ve pled guilty to, and any sentence I give you today will pale in comparison to what you would have faced in state court.”
Two things are important here:
- Hastert was convicted of withdrawing money under $10,000 from his own account.
- Hastert has admitted molesting boys on his wrestling team when he was a coach.
The first allegation should make us all worry. Hastert withdrew his own money in such a way that avoided scrutiny. He gave money to one of the boys (now men) he molested. See George Will’s article in the Washington Post if this bothers you.
Secondly, he was sentenced to more than the maximum because of the molestation charges. The judge said as much.
“If I am going to consider the good history and characteristics of the defendant, I must also consider the bad, which is that the defendant is a serial child molester,” [U.S. District Judge Thomas] Durkin said.
The statute of limitations prevented a prosecution for molesting the boys, but he lied to the FBI in the investigation, and that might have been something to charge him with. Jack McCoy would have found something.
Is it right to charge someone with a crime, then sentence them based upon crimes they got away with?
Pedophiles, folks who don’t make restitution to their victims, people who harass over the internet, bomb makers… Remember. Moving money around might be illegal. Selling property to avoid having it taken in a lawsuit might be illegal. Claiming to live somewhere as a pauper, and declaring your income inaccurately to the IRS might be a crime. Even forging postal documents to fool a judge, or creating fake subpoenas?
Then some day you’re in front of a judge who knows what you have done. They know of your youthful indiscretions or predilections. And they swing the gavel down. Hard.
Just a thought.