- Hastert gets 'Orange Is the New Black' prosecutor
A lawyer newly named to the team prosecuting former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is no stranger to hard-fought criminal cases, including one now firmly ensconced in pop culture: the federal drug conspiracy indictment that spawned the hit Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black."
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago filed paperwork in federal court Friday announcing that Diane MacArthur will be one of two prosecutors handling the case charging Hastert with structuring bank withdrawals to avoid federal reporting requirements and lying to the FBI. The indictment says the money was part of $3.5 million Hastert agreed to pay an acquaintance to conceal and compensate for "past misconduct," reported to involve sexual contact while Hastert was a teacher and coach more than three decades ago.
MacArthur served as prosecutor on a 15-defendant heroin smuggling case brought in Chicago two decades ago that led to the arrest of Piper Kerman, the well-heeled Smith College graduate whose stint in a women's prison in Danbury, Connecticut, led to her "Orange Is the New Black" book and the subsequent TV show. Kerman was arrested in 1998 on charges that she delivered a suitcase filled with drug money years earlier.
In 2003, Kerman pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. MacArthur's name appears on Kerman's plea agreement (posted here) along with the name of the U.S. attorney at the time, Patrick Fitzgerald. The case is still pending, with at least one defendant still on the lam.
MacArthur -- who holds the title of senior litigation counsel -- was also a prosecutor on the case of New Jersey shock jock and blogger Hal Turner, who went to trial three times on charges of threatening violence against federal judges by saying they "deserved to be killed." He claimed the comment was an opinion, not a threat. The first two juries deadlocked, but in 2010, Turner was convicted and sentenced to 33 months in prison.
The Hastert case has already exposed a web of connections between the assigned judge, Thomas Durkin, prosecutors, defense lawyers, Hastert and one of his sons. Putting MacArthur on the case will add a few more. Durkin and MacArthur appear to have overlapped for some time when Durkin was a prosecutor in the same office.
The judge has ruled that his ties to other players in the Hastert case could lead some to question his objectivity, but when he gave both sides the chance to waive any conflict and keep him on the case, they chose to do that.
MacArthur is replacing another prosecutor on the Hastert case, Carrie Hamilton, who quit the U.S. Attorney's Office last month after being named a state circuit court judge in Chicago. MacArthur is a graduate of the University of Illinois and of Loyola University law school. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block, who appeared to be the lead prosecutor at recent hearings on Hastert's case, remains on the team.
Hastert, 73, faces a maximum possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted on both counts he faces, although his actual sentence would likely be lower in accordance with federal sentencing guidelines. He entered not guilty pleas in June. No trial date has been set.
CORRECTION (Friday, 3:59 P.M.): An earlier version of this post indicated that Durkin served as an attorney for one of the defendants in Kerman's case. The co-defendant was represented by another attorney with a similar name.