The Speaker goes to the big house

Yesterday afternoon America had the dishonor of watching a decrepit old man wheel himself into a federal prison hospital on live television. On the way up to the prison door he ran into a sidewalk curb and came to a halt for several seconds before being given a boost over the hump by a companion. He can stand up with difficulty using a walker, is diabetic, and nearly died from a blood infection a few months ago.

Dennis Hastert isn’t a threat to anyone. Maybe he was in his youth and middle age, but he’s a crippled old man now. Incarcerating him serves no public interest. It’s a huge waste of public funds. Worse, it’s a diversion of public funds to the grandstanding carceral state from the inpatient care of severely disturbed people who are too far out of their minds to function anywhere else. FMC Rochester was originally a state hospital. It was a facility that kept the severely mentally ill off the streets, provided them with a secure existence, and did what it could to treat them and make them whole. It’s somehow impossible these days for state governments to pay for long-term mental hospitals, and yet there’s hardly ever a shortage of money to pay for prisons, where the vulnerable mentally ill are thrown in with inmate and staff psychopaths and left largely to fend for themselves. There’s enough money to put a decrepit geezer under guard for crimes the likes of which he is too terminally disabled to ever commit again, and for which he in fact has not been convicted in a court of law, but there’s no money to hospitalize the violently psychotic before they seriously injure or kill others.

Under normal circumstances, it would be hard to feel much sympathy for Diddlin’ Denny. What he did to the boys on his wrestling team as their coach was wrong, and he never expressed regret or remorse on his own initiative. He’s said to have been quite cold to his victims and their relatives when confronted. At the same time, every other party to his criminal trial has behaved execrably: Individual A by waiting until he had parlayed his Congressional career into crooked wealth to extort him for millions of dollars, his banks and the FBI for badgering and cornering him into lying about the purpose of his withdrawals, the US Attorney’s office for prosecuting him, and the trial judge for sentencing him based on crimes for which the statute of limitation had expired. The Bureau of Prisons is behaving amorally by agreeing to admit such a blatantly harmless and neutered old geezer, but amorality is to be expected of the BOP.

The message that this case sends to victims is that they’ll be rewarded for waiting until after the statutes of limitation have expired to extort their sexual abusers and have the FBI trip them up on treacherous banking laws when they try to comply with extortion demands. This is dangerous. If Hastert’s victims or their aware relatives were worried that he’d abuse additional boys, they certainly should have raised an alarm by the time he was sworn in as Speaker of the House. That’s a powerful position. If he was able to intimidate and shame them into silence as a high school wrestling coach, why wouldn’t they expect him to exert an even worse spell over vulnerable boys as one of the most powerful men in Washington? Hell, even if someone with Hastert’s background so much as runs for Congress it’s time for his victims to publicly blow the whistle as loudly as possible. If they had even a mild gut feeling that he’d abuse his power to prey on additional boys, the ones he had already abused and those they had apprised of the abuse had a duty to expose him.

It isn’t clear that most of them ever really gave a shit about Hastert’s threat to others. One victim’s sister confronted him years afterwards, following her brother’s memorial service. None of them spoke out to anyone in authority until Individual A, Hastert’s extortionist and arguable blackmailer, was interviewed by the FBI. There were news articles mentioning that the victims and their relatives were angry to watch Hastert rise to power in Washington. Yeah, you should have fucking said something about it at the time if it you found it so offensive. These were no longer kids; they were grown men. If they didn’t want this perv charming and horse-trading his way into the Speakership, they could have stood up to him.

If they had been angry enough, they would have. What the fuck could Hastert have tried to do to them that the FBI couldn’t have stopped cold? Individual A didn’t even bring an attorney along when he went to shake Dennis down, let alone a cop. Jerry Sandusky, by contrast, so alarmed his victims’ parents that they went to the police. Years before Sandusky was finally arrested, the mother of one of his victims went to the Pennsylvania State Police and nearly got him to admit to abusing her son in a wiretapped conversation. Hastert’s victims sound more like Robert Pickton’s fruitcake neighbor, the one who said that she was too scared to go to the RCMP after seeing him skinning a woman’s body but not too scared to later blackmail him.

By the time Individual A started his shakedown, it was too late. Statutes of limitation serve a compelling policy interest by preventing prosecutors and litigants from pursuing ancient claims against defendants who have since reformed themselves. That is, it should have been too late, but as we’ve seen, Honey Durkin don’t care. Hizzoner has ordered Hastert into a sex offender treatment program that, by some accounts at least, will use lie detector tests to badger him into disclosing the scope and the timeline of his sexual abuse of minors. We have yet to see how the Fifth Amendment survives this case. The Fourth, too: Sybil Edmonds claims that the FBI tapped Hastert’s office phones on Capitol Hill and knew of his kiddy-diddling all along. Muh parallel construction.

We’ve got worse going on here than the grope and the perv of our Lord’s servant Gerald. Much worse.


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