Leading Republicans send letters in support of Dennis Hastert, pedophile

Former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been convicted of paying hush money to cover up his raping of children and is about to be sentenced, and his political friends have closed ranks around him.

Tom DeLay sent a letter to the sentencing court stating that "We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few...He doesn't deserve what he is going through."

This was one of 60 letters in all -- some from leading Republican figures -- that Hastert's defense tried, but failed, to keep out of the public record.

Some of those who defended Hastert's fundamental goodness, despite his prolific sexual assaults on children:

* Tyrone Fahner, a former Illinois attorney general, called Hastert "a kind, strong, principled, and unselfish man," and asked the court "to permit him to live the rest of his life in freedom with his family and friends, and all those who love and admire him."

Hastert's plea deal has him facing a maximum sentence of six months in prison on the financial crimes charge.

Hastert, 74, faces probation to up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Wednesday, although his plea agreement with prosecutors calls for a sentence of no more than six months behind bars. He pleaded guilty in October to one count of illegally structuring bank withdrawals to avoid reporting requirements, admitting in a plea agreement that he'd paid $1.7 million in cash to a person identified only as Individual A to cover up unspecified misconduct from decades earlier.

In a bombshell sentencing memorandum filed earlier this month, prosecutors alleged Hastert had sexually abused at least four wrestlers as well as a former team equipment manager when he was coach at Yorkville. The abuse allegedly occurred in hotel rooms during team trips and in almost-empty locker rooms, often after Hastert coaxed the teens into a compromising position by offering to massage them, prosecutors said.

More than 40 letters in support of Hastert made public before sentencing [Jason Meisner/Chicago Tribune]