- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert will not appeal his conviction or 15-month prison sentence in a hush-money case that centered on his sexual abuse of students when he was a high school wrestling coach in Illinois decades ago, his lead attorney said Thursday.

That means the next step for the Illinois Republican is to report to prison.

Asked whether his 74-year-old client would appeal his conviction or sentence - or any other aspect of the case - attorney Thomas Green responded in an email to The Associated Press: “No.” The deadline to file an appeal is the end of this week.

As part of a plea deal, Hastert pleaded guilty last October not to sex abuse but to one count of violating banking law as he sought to pay $3.5 million to one victim referred to in court papers only as “Individual A” to keep him quiet about the sex abuse. In exchange, the government dropped one count of lying to the FBI.

Judge Thomas M. Durkin branded Hastert “a serial child molester” at his April 27 sentencing, where Durkin imposed a punishment beyond the federal guidelines of zero to six months in prison. Durkin justified the tougher sentence by pointing to Hastert abusing at least four boys at Yorkville High.

An appeal would have been a longshot.

Hastert could have tried to argue Durkin put too much weight on something for which the former GOP leader was not charged - the sex abuse - or that the judge shouldn’t have strayed so far from the guidelines that were spelled out in the written plea agreement, said Chicago attorney Terry Sullivan, who was not part of the case.

“I’m mildly surprised he didn’t appeal the sentence,” he said. “But to go through another year or two of an appeal, at his current age, Hastert would have thought, ‘Let’s just get this over with.’”

Resentencing also would have carried the risk that prosecutors would uncover more abusive behavior - and possibly a longer sentence, said Leonard Goodman, another Chicago-based attorney.

Appealing the conviction itself would have been even more difficult. Defendants can theoretically claim they were forced to plead guilty or weren’t mentally competent, but such arguments rarely persuade appellate panels.

Durkin didn’t set a date by which Hastert must report to prison, saying officials must first identify the right facility. It’s likely to be before year’s end.

One good option, Durkin has said, would be a prison near Rochester, Minnesota, because it currently holds many child molesters, so Hastert would be less likely to be singled out and attacked.

After prison, Hastert must also undergo sex-offender treatment, which would likely include a lie-detector test to determine how many times he sexually abused kids and over what time period.

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Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm

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