CHICAGO (AP) — A lawyer for former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Thursday called leaks regarding the federal hush-money case against the Illinois Republican “unconscionable” and said he may ask the court to investigate.
Thomas Green, Hastert’s Washington, D.C.-based defense attorney, said during a status hearing in Chicago that he’s concerned information that’s been disclosed to the media may inhibit Hastert’s right to a fair trial.
“Something has to be done to stop these leaks,” said Green, who attended the hearing via telephone. “They’re unconscionable and they have to stop.”
Hastert, who wasn’t required to attend Thursday’s hearing and didn’t do so, is accused of promising to pay $3.5 million to someone identified in an indictment only as “Individual A” to conceal past misconduct against that person.
The indictment does not detail the alleged misconduct, and both prosecutors and defense attorneys have taken steps to keep the information confidential.
But The Associated Press and other media outlets, citing anonymous sources, have reported the payments were intended to conceal claims of sexual misconduct from decades ago.
Hastert and his lawyers have not commented on the allegations included in the indictment or the additional information provided to the media. His Chicago-based attorneys left the courthouse Thursday without speaking to reporters.
The former teacher and coach has pleaded not guilty to charges of violating banking laws and lying to the FBI. Authorities allege that he structured cash withdrawals in increments of just under $10,000 in an attempt to avoid reporting rules, and that when questioned about it by the FBI, Hastert said he was taking the money out because he didn’t trust banks.
Green said he has made his “displeasure” about the leaks clear to prosecutors, and said the government “has to do something” or he may seek an investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block told U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin that prosecutors also find the leaks “disturbing.” He said the government is “doing everything we can” to look into it.
Durkin also told attorneys he plans to modify a protective order prosecutors requested that would keep some evidence in the case secret, even after the proceedings are complete.
The order, which Durkin had granted but not yet signed, would bar defense attorneys from disclosing any discovery provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to anyone not involved in the case.
Prosecutors also asked Durkin to require any information classified by prosecutors as “sensitive” to be submitted under seal if included as part of a public filing. They said they sought the order, in part, to protect “the privacy interests of third parties.”
But Durkin said any evidence he’s asked to consider in making a decision in the case or that’s used at trial shouldn’t automatically be sealed, even if the government considers it sensitive.
He said that if lawyers want him to consider that information but keep it secret, they must first file a motion requesting that the material be filed under seal. If he grants the motion, Durkin said, lawyers then must file a sealed copy and a redacted copy that would be publicly available.
The judge set another status hearing for July 14. He said Hastert, who is free on an unsecured $4,500 bond, isn’t required to attend.
Associated Press reporter Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that Hastert defense attorney Thomas Green is based in Washington, D.C., not New York.
Follow Sara Burnett at http://twitter.com/sara_burnett