Why Loretta Lynch's bust should scare the hell out of
A lot of media folks are beginning to suggest that one-time speaker of the House, Republican icon Dennis Hastert, was a pervert school teacher and wrestling coach. A pig’s ass, IOW. Obama’s Dept. of Justice is suggesting the same thing by way of a 2-count indictment, although it’s not the counts of the indictment that suggest the pig’s ass problem – that’s in the back-story laid out in the indictment.
Now, as a first point of interest we must note that the indictment published by DOJ does not identify any DOJ employee or official as the one pushing the case against Hastert. That official is the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch – let’s just clear the air on that point: this was her bust. No US attorney is going to go after someone of Hastert’s stature without the Attorney General (and, probably, the President) signing off on it.
So for the sake of the present analysis, let’s presume the truth of what Lynch is implying: that Hastert was involved in some sort of criminal activity while he was a school teacher from 1965 to 1981, and that criminal activity was sexual in nature. I am going to refer to this speculative but presumed criminal activity as "the Primary Offense" and Hastert as the "Primary Perp." By my calculator 1985 was 30 years ago, which means that the statute of limitations has almost certainly run out on the Primary Offense, which, in turn, means that the Primary Offense is not currently indictable. That means as far as that Primary Offense goes, Hastert is beyond the reach of Lynch, and the Illinois attorney general, and anybody else, except, perhaps, God and the Second Amendment.
But Lynch is not prosecuting Hastert for the Primary Offense, although it’s beginning to look like maybe God is. Lynch’s case is more complicated than that. According to the indictment, there is a second player here, "Individual A." Whoever drafted the indictment was careful not to use a pronoun to refer to Individual A so we don’t know the gender of this individual. In the best PC tradition, I will refer to him/her as "him/her" and "he/she." The indictment strongly suggests that Individual A is the victim of the Primary Offense, making him/her the Primary Victim.
Facts relating to Individual A, according to the indictment, are these:
1. Individual A has been a resident of Hastert’s home town of Yorkville, IL and has known Hastert for most of his/her life.
2. Around 2010 Individual A met with Hastert multiple times and on at least one occasion they "discussed" Hastert’s past misconduct against Individual A that occurred "years earlier."
3. Hastert "agreed" to pay Individual A $3.5 million to compensate for and conceal the misconduct.
4. From 2010 to 2014 Hastert paid Individual A about $1.7 million in cash taken from bank accounts Hastert controlled.
OK, so we can stop right here and call this spade a "spade." Individual A is obviously shaking down Hastert. It’s called "extortion" and "blackmail." This is almost certainly both a state and, possibly, a federal crime. There may also be criminal issues related to activity involving federally guaranteed financial institutions and electronic and mail communications. I am calling this extortion the "Secondary Offense." That makes Individual A the Secondary Perp and it makes Hastert the Secondary Victim. BTW, this sort of extortion is essentially the same thing thousands of victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests did – they took large sums of money to keep their mouths shut, thus insuring that 1) the crimes would remain a secret and 2) there would be yet more victims.
As far as I know, it is not a crime to be a victim of extortion/blackmail even if what you are being blackmailed for is a crime. It is not a crime to pay off someone – your victim or a third party – to keep that person from going to the cops and/or the press. Nor is it a crime to decline to tell the local cops or the FBI that you are being blackmailed, even if they ask you. And yet, these acts of self-preservation are what Hastert is really being prosecuted for in Lynch’s sick round-about way – which brings us to Tertiary Offenses, the ones Hastert was busted for.
Hastert took cash out of his accounts to pay Individual A – I mean, obviously he couldn’t pay the hush money with a check. He initially made 15 withdrawals of $50,000 each. Now, taking that much cash out of your account is not a crime, but it is suspicious. When the banks asked him about these withdrawals and advised him that they were required to report withdrawals of more than $10,000 to the feds, Hastert reduced his withdrawals to less than $10,000, obviously not knowing that it is a federal crime to "structure" transactions (withdrawals, for instance) to avoid the reporting requirements. That’s right, if you withdraw $9000 from your account every month, the feds could very well bust you for a violation of a federal statute – 31 USC §5324, specifically.
So Hastert was in a pickle – if he didn’t pay the extortion money, his past crimes would become public and all the $1.7 million in past extortion money he paid Individual A would be wasted. On the other hand, in order to withdraw the cash to make the extortion payments he would have to tell the banks, and hence the feds, what he was doing, and to whom he was making the payments, and, probably, why.
The lesson here is that you may think it’s your money sitting in your checking or savings account, but it’s not. It’s the bank’s. They own that money and they are indebted to you for it. When you deposited the money, you made a payment-on-demand loan to the bank, but the payments come with conditions. The federal laws telling the banks what they can and can’t do with that money don’t really concern you, because it’s not your money. If the federal government demands to know every single time the bank takes your money or gives you money, that’s between the banks and the feds. As a former teacher and wrestling coach, Hastert didn’t have the first idea what was going on or what he was required to tell the bank about the withdrawals.
Then we come to the second part of the Tertiary Offenses: when the FBI eventually did ask Hastert about the repeated large withdrawals, Hastert told them that he "kept the cash." Those three words – spoken in an attempt to avoid being outed by the person blackmailing him – could get Hastert 5 years in a federal pen. For under 18 USC §1001, it is a criminal offense to make "any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation" regarding "any matter" that is within the jurisdiction of any branch of the government. The law doesn’t say to whom the false statement must be made in order to be a crime. As long as the matter is within the jurisdiction of the US government – and just about every matter is – then you could be committing a federal crime by talking to your dog. You need to be especially careful if your dog is a border collie.
But what about Individual A? I mean if Hastert handed him/her 15 payments of $50,000 each, so he/she had to do something with them. Maybe he/she’s a lawyer or just a lot smarter than Hastert and is holding the money in cash so as to avoid any embarrassing disclosures to the bank. But if Individual A deposited the money in sums of less than $10,000, then he/she, too, is likely in violation of §5324. And, of course, there is the little issue of his/her blackmailing Hastert.
Given the facts laid out in Lynch’s indictment of Hastert, the feds certainly know about the blackmailing. But the federal blackmail statute provides for no more than a year in prison. And so it is a safe guess that the feds would give Individual A immunity from prosecution in order to land a bigger and smellier fish that they can put away for a longer time.
This is the single most important lesson in this whole sordid story: DO NOT EVER talk to a FBI agent without your lawyer present. For one thing, the agent could shoot you dead in your own apartment and later claim you made an impromptu confession, as they claimed after a pack of FBI agents killed Ibragim Todashev. Or they could just say you lied to them, which would trigger your prosecution under 18 USC §1001. In fact, talking to any federal employee about any matter – Social Security, border crossings, IRS, Medicare, boarding a plane – could get you indicted under §1001 if that employee thinks you have told a lie, or just wants to mess with you.
Just ask Loretta Lynch.
Copyright, Denis O'Brien, 2005-2016 ~ ~ All rights reserved.