It’s been hard to miss the news the past few months about the criminal prosecution of former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
Hastert has been accused of sexually abusing teenage boys while a teacher and wrestling coach decades ago in Yorkville, Illinois. But with the statute of limitations long past on those alleged crimes and little evidence remaining, federal prosecutors instead chose last year to indict Hastert on charges that he violated federal banking laws and made false statements to the FBI when he wired money to keep an alleged victim, now an adult, quiet about the misconduct. Hastert reportedly agreed to pay the victim $3.5 million, and had already sent him $1.7 million at the time that the FBI began investigating him.
A Longer Than Expected Sentence But No Appeal
Hastert pleaded guilty last year before a federal judge in Chicago to the charges of structuring financial transactions to conceal payments and making false statements. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors recommended that Hastert serve a sentence of between zero and six months in prison. However, the judge, imposed a sentence of 15 months in prison based on the numerous allegations of sexual abuse against Hastert.
Hastert could have appealed the sentence because it went beyond federal guidelines, but chose not to as the deadline for the appeal passed last week. He now must report to prison.
While Hastert would have been perfectly within his rights to file an appeal, his case illustrates several reasons why sometimes it’s best to avoid an appeal. Of course, the sexual abuse allegations against Hastert are appalling. Even though he cannot be convicted of any crime based on those allegations at this point, the conduct that led to his violations of federal banking law will not win him much favor with an appellate court.
And federal prosecutors only promised to recommend a lighter sentence for Hastert. When entering a plea agreement with prosecutors, there is never any guarantee that a judge will follow the agreement, and this alone is not enough to win a lighter sentence on appeal.
There is also the possibility that if Hastert had appealed his sentence and dragged out the process for another year or two, prosecutors might have discovered more evidence of wrongdoing. If such evidence were discovered while the case was pending on appeal, it could have actually resulted in Hastert receiving a longer sentence than what was initially imposed by the court.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyer
Appeals are a complicated area of the law. There are many more procedural requirements for pursuing a criminal appeal in either state or federal court, and there are also strategic concerns. It might be better to appeal on some issues rather than others, and as this unique case illustrates, in some cases it might be better to not file an appeal at all. To learn about appeals, contact Barney & Hourihane today to talk an attorney about your situation.