OPINION

Rick Sanchez: Dennis Hastert’s embarrassing, unforgivable offenses don't deserve leniency

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 18: Republican members of the House of Representatives hold a "Get Out of Town" rally November 18, 2005 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 18: Republican members of the House of Representatives hold a "Get Out of Town" rally November 18, 2005 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)  (2005 Getty Images)

I have a one-word answer for the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert: No!  

No, you can’t ask for a light sentence in lieu of your public humiliation. Bank robbers don’t get to avoid jail, because their families are ashamed that they tried to steal somebody else’s money.  

God may forgive Dennis Hastert. God may give him points for being humiliated and embarrassed in front of his friends. But we are not gods, we are mere mortals armed only with our laws, which tell us "all men are created equal."  

- Rick Sanchez

In America – for most people – when you commit a crime, you do the time. Don’t believe it? Just ask the millions of young, poor and disadvantaged youth whose parents can’t afford lawyers. Our nation’s jails and prisons are filled with embarrassed and ashamed young people whose crimes are arguably much less harmful than Hastert’s.  

Yet, Dennis Hastert’s lawyers are asking a federal court for leniency. They say he’s already suffered enough from the damage to his reputation when it was discovered that he gave hush money to a former student to keep the young man from revealing Hastert’s despicable secret. Hastert allegedly sexually abused the student in the 1980s while he was a wrestling coach in Illinois.  

Yes, it’s embarrassing if not humiliating when a famous politician is accused of something as rancid as child abuse, but isn’t that the way it should be? Hastert’s lawyers say probation should be enough punishment for their client, because after all — he feels really bad. He doesn’t necessarily feel bad about what he did, no — he feels bad about how he’s being treated by his friends.  

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Here is how his attorneys describe Hastert’s condition as he appears before the court:  “...deteriorated both physically and emotionally, undoubtedly in part due to public shaming and humiliation of an unprecedented degree.”

Hastert, 74, has already pleaded guilty to violating banking laws in order to make payoffs to the former student. Now, he wants the court to give him a break and recognize his many “contributions and good traits.”

Should we count among those "contributions and good traits" his efforts to pass laws against homosexuals, while hiding a homosexual relationship, if we can call it that? Seems ironic, if not downright hypocritical.

The most important reason why Hastert and others of his ilk should not be treated lightly or given a break has to do with power. There are millions of young, impressionable children in America — many of them young Latino immigrants like myself. These are children whose parents often work two or three jobs.  

These latch key kids become prey for the very people they look up to — sexual predators who knowingly gravitate toward jobs that allow them to interact with children. It’s among the most insidious of all crimes, because it robs children of their trust, their innocence and in many cases can result in lifelong catastrophic consequences leading to serious behavioral, dependence, addiction issues and even suicide.  

It’s not, as some reports on the Hastert affair, have described it — “a relationship.” When a man in a position of power uses that power to coax a child to have sex with him, he is not eliciting a relationship; he is a sexual predator preying on the weakness of children.  

God may forgive Dennis Hastert. God may give him points for being humiliated and embarrassed in front of his friends. But we are not gods, we are mere mortals armed only with our laws, which tell us "all men are created equal."  

Dennis Hastert must not be given a pass, because if anything – as a man in a position of power – he should be held to a higher standard. It’s what we’re taught in the parable of the faithful servant: to him who much is given, much is required.