CHICAGO — Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been hospitalized since early November, shortly after the former Illinois lawmaker pleaded guilty to making dozens of illegally structured bank withdrawals as part of an effort to pay hush money to someone from his past for decades-old misconduct, his attorney says.

Hastert, 73, suffered a stroke in early November, has been treated for sepsis and has also undergone two back surgeries since being hospitalized, his senior counsel Thomas Green said.

“We are hopeful that Mr. Hastert will be released from the hospital in the early part of the new year,” Green said.  “The family very much desires that during Mr. Hastert’s continued hospitalization, his privacy will be respected.”

Hastert pleaded guilty in late October to one count of illegal structuring, which carries a maximum sentence of five years. But under the plea agreement, federal prosecutor Steven Block recommended that Hastert, the longest serving GOP speaker in history, be sentenced to zero to six months in federal prison.

Judge Thomas Durkin will make the final decision on terms of his sentence and may reject the prosecutor’s recommendation. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 29.

The indictment referred to the alleged wrongdoing by Hastert as “prior misconduct” against an individual decades ago.

But federal law enforcement officials told USA TODAY that Hastert made illegally structured withdrawals as part of an effort to conceal sexual misconduct he committed against a male student decades earlier at Yorkville High School, where Hastert worked as a teacher and wrestling coach before entering politics.

In a letter to Durkin filed in court records earlier this week, a longtime friend of Hastert made reference to the former speaker’s hospitalization.

“In light of his recent hospital stay, I would hope that probation in lieu of confinement would be considered in determining his sentence,” wrote C. William Pollard, who is the chairman emeritus of the ServiceMaster Company.