Ex-US lawmaker Hastert aimed to hide sexual misconduct with male: LA Times

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former US House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert, indicted on Thursday on federal criminal charges, was paying a male from his past to try to conceal sexual misconduct, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday, citing two unnamed federal law enforcement officials.

One of the officials cited by the newspaper said the alleged misconduct involved a male and occurred during Hastert's time as a high school wrestling coach and teacher in Yorkville, Illinois, before becoming a lawmaker.

Hastert could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutors said the charges related to Hastert's alleged effort to hide $3.5 million in payments he was making to a person to conceal past misconduct, but did not detail the nature of the misconduct.

Asked why Hastert, an Illinois Republican who become his party's longest-serving House speaker before leaving Congress in 2007, was making the payments, the official told the Times that it was intended to conceal Hastert's past relationship with the male. "It was sex," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Hastert, 73, was charged on Thursday with structuring the withdrawal of $952,000 in cash to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000, and lying to the FBI about his withdrawals.

Each count of the two-count indictment carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Before his terms in Congress, Hastert served three terms as an Illinois state representative and was a teacher at Yorkville High School in suburban Chicago for 16 years.

The Yorkville school district that employed Hastert from 1965 to 1981 said in a statement on Friday it "has no knowledge of Mr. Hastert's alleged misconduct, nor has any individual contacted the District to report any such misconduct." The district said it was first made aware of any concerns regarding the former congressman when the indictment was released.

Judge Thomas Durkin has been assigned to the case, but has not yet set a date for Hastert's first appearance. The former congressman has not been arrested and is not considered a flight risk, a spokeswoman for the US Attorney's Office in Chicago said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, during his daily briefing, declined to comment specifically on the allegations against Hastert but said, "There's nobody here who derives any pleasure from reading about the former speaker's legal troubles at this point."

Hastert has resigned from the board of advisers to the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy at his alma mater Wheaton College in Wheaton Illinois, the school said on Friday.

He graduated from Wheaton College in 1964, where he was also a wrestler.

On Thursday, he resigned from the Washington lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro, which he joined in 2008, and resigned as a board member of the exchange operator CME Group Inc.