Lawyers for ex House Speaker Hastert ask judge for probation

By Justin Madden CHICAGO (Reuters) - Lawyers for former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, convicted last year of a financial crime in a hush-money case, urged a federal judge on Wednesday to spare him prison time for health reasons and because he is "deeply sorry." Hastert, 74, faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced later this month for his guilty plea in October to a federal charge of "structuring" - evading bank reporting rules by withdrawing large amounts of cash in small increments. The former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives has admitted to paying $1.7 million in cash to someone he had known for decades to buy that person's silence and compensate for past misconduct toward that individual. Neither Hastert's lawyers nor prosecutors have revealed the misconduct at issue. But unnamed law enforcement officials have told media it was sexual in nature and involved someone Hastert knew when he was a high school teacher and coach in his hometown of Yorkville, Illinois, in the 1960s and 1970s. "First and foremost, Mr. Hastert is deeply sorry and apologizes for his misconduct that occurred decades ago and the resulting harm he caused to others," his lawyers said in a memorandum seeking leniency. "He regrets that he resorted to structuring the withdrawal of his money from banks in an effort to prevent the disclosure of that misconduct." Prosecutors have recommended a prison term of no more than six months in exchange for Hastert's guilty plea. The defense asked that he be sentenced to probation only, citing his deteriorating medical condition. According to Wednesday's filing, Hastert suffers from diabetes, which led to foot ulceration, and medical staff discovered an infection after he was hospitalized following a fall. Hastert has also had surgery for a spinal infection, was treated for a severe blood infection and suffered a stroke, nearly dying, his lawyers have said. He has been confined to a wheelchair, can walk only a short distance with help, and needs around-the-clock care, court documents said. Hastert is scheduled to be sentenced on April 27, according to the Chicago Tribune. (Reporting by Justin Madden; Editing by Peter Cooney)