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Hastert Enters Not Guilty Plea During 1st Court Appearance

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Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse, Tuesday, June 9, 2015, in Chicago for his arraignment on federal charges that he broke federal banking laws and lied about the money when questioned by the FBI. The indictment two weeks ago alleged Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to someone from his days as a high school teacher not to reveal a secret about past misconduct. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse, Tuesday, June 9, 2015, in Chicago for his arraignment on federal charges that he broke federal banking laws and lied about the money when questioned by the FBI. The indictment two weeks ago alleged Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to someone from his days as a high school teacher not to reveal a secret about past misconduct. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

MICHAEL TARM, Associated Press
SARA BURNETT, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has pleaded not guilty to charges that he violated banking rules and lied to the FBI about promising to pay $3.5 million in hush money to conceal misconduct from his days as a high school teacher.

On Tuesday, during his first court appearance since he was indicted, the 73-year-old stood motionless, his hands folded and eyes downcast at the floor, as his attorney entered the plea on his behalf. When the judge asked if he understood he had to submit a DNA sample and could go to jail if he violated any conditions of his release, the man who was once second in the line of succession to the presidency answered quietly, “Yes, sir.”

Hastert has not spoken publicly about the accusations that emerged two weeks ago and quickly raised questions about possible sexual abuse by the once-powerful Republican legislator from Illinois. Neither he nor his attorneys commented after the hearing.

The politician-turned-lobbyist is accused of evading federal banking laws by withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars in smaller amounts and lying about the money when questioned.

At the start of Tuesday’s hearing, Hastert reached into a coat pocket and pulled out his passport, handing it to his attorney, who turned it over to a court official. Surrendering foreign travel documents is a standard condition of release.

The former congressman was also ordered to have any firearms removed from his property by June 23 and was forbidden from having contact with victims or witnesses in the case.

Prosecutors did not shed any more light Tuesday on the secret Hastert allegedly sought to conceal by paying the person the indictment refers to as “Individual A.”

A person familiar with the allegations told The Associated Press that the payments were intended to conceal claims of sexual misconduct from decades ago. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Judge Thomas M. Durkin spent most of the 20-minute hearing explaining how he believed he had no conflict of interest in the matter but then giving attorneys on both sides until Thursday to say if they want him to stay on the case.

The issue came up because Federal Election Commission records indicate he donated $500 to the “Hastert for Congress” campaign in 2002 and $1,000 in 2004. Durkin was an attorney at a Chicago law firm at the time of the contributions.

Durkin cited those donations and that he knew Hastert’s son Ethan. The two worked together in private practice before Durkin became a judge. But, the judge said, he does not consider the younger Hastert “a personal friend.”

To the best of his knowledge, he said, he never met Dennis Hastert.

“I have no doubt I can be impartial in this matter,” the judge said.

After the judge issue is resolved, Durkin or another judge brought in to replace him will lay out a timetable for prosecutors to share evidence with the defense. Hastert could seek a plea deal or take his case to a jury. Any trial would probably be many months away. If convicted, Hastert faces a maximum five-year prison term on each of the two counts.

Appearing much thinner than in his days as speaker, Hastert walked into court slowly, slightly bent over. He appeared nervous as he sat at a defense table waiting for the hearing to begin, rubbing his chin, biting his lip and occasionally scanning the courtroom benches packed with reporters. At one point, a defense attorney reached over and patted him on the shoulder.

His lead attorney, Thomas C. Green, is based in Washington and has represented clients in the Watergate, Iran-Contra and Whitewater cases. Chicago attorney John Gallo is also on Hastert’s defense team. Steven Block is the lead U.S. prosecutor.

The indictment made public May 28 says Hastert agreed in 2010 to pay Individual A $3.5 million to “compensate for and conceal (Hastert’s) prior misconduct” against that person. It says he paid $1.7 million before federal agents began scrutinizing the transactions.

He allegedly started by withdrawing $50,000 at a time and changed course when automatic bank transaction reports flagged those withdrawals. The indictment says Hastert then began taking cash out in increments of less than $10,000 to skirt reporting rules, which are primarily meant to thwart money laundering by underworld figures.

It’s not illegal to withdraw large amounts in cash. But it’s against the law to structure the withdrawals with the intent of dodging reporting requirements.

Hastert, who is married with two sons, follows a well-trodden path of other Illinois politicians who have walked through the revolving doors at Chicago’s federal courthouse. Several recent governors, Chicago aldermen and other public figures have entered pleas in the same building. Among the most recent were former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, and former Gov. George Ryan, a Republican. Both men were convicted on corruption charges.

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Associated Press Writer Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Commentary

First in a series on Jobs in Oakland City Government: Please Do No (More) Harm

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

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Gay Plair Cobb
Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.
City administration professes concern for its residents who need help with access to jobs and training, while at the same time failing to issue contracts to the community organizations that stand ready to provide needed services.
The city council approved these contracts in June. As of late September, they have not been issued by the city administration.
Q: What does this mean? A: Non-profit organizations, operating on shoestring budgets in the best of times, have been required to advance their own funds in July, August, and September to serve the unemployed, with no reimbursement by the city because as the administration says, “Your contract has not been signed yet.”
Another impact: the workers who provide front line job services may not receive their paychecks on time…. creating unnecessary instability in their own households.
And who is responsible for issuing these contracts? Yup…it’s the city…. painfully tone deaf to the needs of the community, particularly those on the economic margins. Most of those served with job help are Black and Latinx residents who consistently suffer double digit unemployment. Many are returning home after incarceration.
And for this level of harmful disregard, the city receives  28 percent of scarce job training funds. Astonishing, since the city provides no direct services to job seekers.
As Oakland struggles with its horrific crime wave, it seems that attention would be paid to root causes, joblessness being paramount among them. Instead, the city administration seems intent on hobbling the very groups who stand ready to help. This happens year after year…. with no apparent consequences to an impenetrable bureaucracy.
Oakland, we can do  better than this.
We must.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Black History

BlackHistoryEveryday.com

Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

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9/22/2021: Carl Bean 1944-2021 singer and founder Unity Fellowship Church Movement, Black LGBT denomination.

9/15/2021: Black Theatre United “. . . stand[s] together to help protect Black people, Black talent and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theatre and communities across the country.”

9/08/2021: Alliance for Digital Equality (Julius Hollis founder) was a “non-profit consumer advocacy organization that serves to facilitate and ensure equal access to technology in underserved communities.”

8/25/2021: Eugene Williams first victim at age 17, by being stoned and drowned on July 27, 1919, during “Red Summer” of 1919 race riot in Chicago.

8/18/2021: Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

8/11/2021: Enslaved Africans politically correct term coined for slaves who landed on the now U.S. shores in 1619.

8/4/2021: Trini Ross nominated to lead the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of New York based in Buffalo, if confirmed she will be the first Black woman to head that office.

7/28/2021: Kimberly Drew born 1990 art curator and writer. Former Metropolitan Museum social media manager.

7/21/2021: Ketanji Brown Jackson born 1970, in 2021 elevated by Biden to U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. and is a contender to be the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

7/14/2021: Mary Ellen Pleasant 1814 – 1904 “The Mother of Civil (or Human) Rights in California.” Also a chef.

7/7/2021:  Florence Price 1887-1953 first Black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra.

6/30/2021: Skylar Heath, 20, Black transgender woman shot and killed in Miami, FL in November 20, 2020.

6/23/2021: Dior H Ova (aka Tiffany Harris), 32,  Black transgender woman, killed July 26, 2020 in Bronx, NY.

6/16/2021: Danika “Danny” Henson, 31, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 4. 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

6/9/2021: Alexus Braxton, 45, Black transgender woman aka Kimmy Icon Braxton, killed on 2/4/2021 in Miami, Florida.

6/2/2021: Serenity Hollis, 24, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 8, 2021 in Albany, Georgia.

5/26/2021: Cassie Ventura born in 1986 is a Black and Filipino singer, songwriter, actor, and dancer.

5/19/2021: Naomi Campbell born 1970. British actress, business woman and model of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese-Jamaican descent.

5/12/2021: George Maxwell Richards 1931-2018, first president of Trinidad and Tobago to be of Amerindian (and Chinese) descent.

5/5/2021: Marabou is Haitian and means mixed-race including European, African, Taíno and South Asian.

4/28/2021:  Thelma Harper 1940 – 2021.  First Black woman elected to the Tennessee legislature in 1989.

4/21/2021:  Baby Esther born Esther Lee Jones 1918 – 1921, date of death unknown.  Singer and child entertainer in the 1920s.

4/14/2021: Tishaura O. Jones born March 10. 1972, first Black woman mayor of St. Louis, MO in April 2021.

4/7/2021: Something Good—Negro Kiss 1898 first recorded kiss between Black folks on film.

3/31/2021:  Jayla Roxx first transgender woman of color to launch a beauty brand, “BatMe! Cosmetics” in the United States.

3/24/2021:  Nnenna Stella founded The Wrap Life out of her exploration of her individuality and the wraps are for everyone.

3/17/2021:  Maia Chaka first Black woman to officiate in the NFL.

3/10/2021:  Sheila Edwonna Branford 1/27/1960 – 1/29/2021  created Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

3/3/2021:  Katrina Adams born 8/5/1968. First Black president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

1/27/2021: Calendly is a Black owned scheduling app.

 

more facts log onto BlackHistoryEveryday.com

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Business

Mayor Breed, Supervisor Mar Launch Grant to Support Storefronts Impacted by Vandalism

Up to $2,000 in financial relief available to repair storefront vandalism at neighborhood businesses

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SF Storefront Vandalism Grant Program Banner/Photo Courtesy of City of San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development

Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisor Gordon Mar announced Wednesday the launch of the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant program, which provides up to $2,000 in financial relief to restore and repair damages from vandalism at neighborhood storefronts. The program launches during a time when many small businesses are recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Opening and operating a successful small business in San Francisco was becoming increasingly difficult, and the pandemic has made it that much harder,” said Breed. “It has never been more critical for us to provide support to our small businesses in every way that we can, which not only means making it easier to open and operate a small business, but also providing relief when they face challenges. With the launch of the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant, we are letting our small business community know that we have their back and will fight to ensure that they can continue operating for years to come.”

The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant provides financial relief to restore small businesses impacted by deliberate actions that result in the destruction or damages of storefronts. This program will offer either $1,000 or $2,000, depending on the total cost incurred to repair physical damages. The $1 million program is designed to serve more than 500 small businesses with gross revenue of less than $8 million that can provide proof of damages from vandalism incurred since July 1, 2020.

The fund will directly support small businesses with financial relief in the aftermath of a crime to restore the harm done. The fund will also allow small businesses to make improvements that enhance security and prevent crime. This includes replacement locks, a new security gate, fixing an alarm system, adding new lighting, replacing windows, etchings on windows, and many others. Improvements are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, based on fund availability.

The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant is one tool in preventing crime and improving safety in neighborhood commercial corridors. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) also funds programs to help small businesses and neighborhood organizations improve safety through ambassadors and activations to increase foot traffic and community patrols. The fund is not meant to replace the loss of stolen goods and does not include damage to shared spaces.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in burglaries and vandalism in every neighborhood targeting small businesses already struggling with unprecedented economic challenges. As we work to prevent these crimes and strengthen safety on our commercial corridors, we must also respond immediately to provide relief to mom-and-pop businesses with direct and tangible support as they recover from these incidents,” said Mar. 

“Following requests from businesses in the Sunset, I worked with Mayor Breed and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to create the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant and secured an initial $1 million funding allocation,” said Mar. “The fund will provide financial relief to small businesses in the aftermath of a crime to restore the harm done, including direct costs of property damage or getting a replacement lock or new security measures.”

To apply, eligible businesses are asked to provide receipts, photos of damages and furnish a report from the San Francisco Police Department or from 311 in the case of graffiti. Applications can be found by visiting oewd.org/VandalismRelief.

“On February 26 at 4:00 a.m., a burglar managed to break into my small business without activating the alarm. An hour later an opportunistic looter came into my store and stole additional merchandise. Small businesses are already hurting hard from the pandemic and these crimes are a gut punch to small businesses,” said Michael Hsu, owner of Footprint on Taraval.  

“Since hearing about the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant, I’ve put in my application to get up to $2,000 to help provide some relief to my business. We need more programs like this to support small businesses in our neighborhood that are struggling from being victims of burglary and vandalism. I’m thankful for our city leaders for initiating this program. Together with the community and leaders, we will get through these tough times.”

“Since the pandemic, I have heard so many stories from small businesses that have been burglarized or vandalized. As a small business owner, myself, I feel and understand their pain and loss,” said Albert Chow, president of People of the Parkside Sunset, a Taraval merchants and residents association. “The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant is a safety net that is critical to ensuring that our small business owners are able to recover.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, San Francisco has provided immediate and ongoing support for small businesses, including making available more than $52.8 million in grants and loans to support more than 3,000 small businesses, in addition to tens of millions of dollars in fee and tax deferrals, and assistance applying for state and federal funding. This includes legislation introduced and signed by Mayor Breed to waive $5 million in fees and taxes for entertainment and nightlife venues and small restaurants.

“As we reopen and rebuild, many of our small businesses continue to struggle to make ends meet. These challenges can feel almost insurmountable when small businesses also become victims of vandalism” said Kate Sofis, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.  “San Francisco’s Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant will help alleviate the financial hardship caused by deliberate acts of damage to property. It is one of many tools the City has to support our business community and the vibrancy of our neighborhoods as we work together towards economic recovery.”

“The San Francisco Post’s coverage of local news in San Francisco County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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