Dennis Hastert, Republican and former U.S. Speaker of the House, has experienced an epic fall from grace. A bank fraud case tied to allegations of sex abuse of teen boys has compelled Hastert to finally admit he “mistreated” them, without a confession of specific actions. He was sentenced to 15 months, must pay a $250,000 fine, and is barred from contacting victims, along with two years of supervised release. Because the statute of limitations had passed, he was never charged with child sex abuse. Sentencing took place at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago.
The incidents leading to 74-year-old Hastert’s descent from second in succession to the presidency to convicted criminal follow a trail of denial, lies, and deception. Federal Judge Thomas Durkin called Hastert a “serial child molester” who tried to cover up past sex abuse of a 14-year-old boy by paying for silence, and there were also other victims, per the Chicago Tribune. The man who served in Congress 28 years, eight as Speaker of the House, must now register as a sex offender.
Read more about the case -> https://t.co/s21KUejwhX
— NPR (@NPR) April 27, 2016
When approaching the microphone prior to the judge’s decision, Hastert made an apology, likely hoping for probation.
“What I did was wrong and I regret it. They looked to me and I took advantage of them.”
He also said he “mistreated athletes.” It was then that Durkin insisted on details and asked Hastert if he sexually abused the victims. The once-powerful politician responded with a one-word answer, “Yes.”
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 27, 2016
Yorkville, Illinois bank officials became suspicious of Hastert during a routine bank audit in April, 2012, because he had made seven withdrawals of $50,000. Bank regulations require financial institutions to file transactions reports on any withdrawal above $10,000. When queried, Dennis Hastert lied to officials by stating that he was withdrawing money to buy stocks and to make investments, per USA Today.
After being questioned, Hastert withdrew smaller amounts, but from 2010 to 2014, the total withdrawn was approximately $1.7 million, which he gave to a man who court documents identify as Individual A. The payments were part of what authorities said was an oral agreement Hastert had to make restitution for past abuse of Individual A.
In late 2014, the FBI and IRS began looking at the continued activity, and Hastert’s response through an attorney was to claim that Individual A was extorting money from him. However, investigators soon discovered that the former congressman had entered an agreement with Individual A to pay him $3.5 million over time.
Dennis Hastert was formerly a wrestling coach and history teacher at Yorkville High School before he became a politician. One of his accusers, Scott Cross, 53, identified as Individual D in court papers, testified that he was abused during an after-workout massage when the Hastert began stroking the then-teen’s penis. Cross is a father who said he was devastated and wasn’t certain he would be able to speak in court, reported NBC News.
“I’ve always felt that what Coach Hastert had done to me was my darkest secret. I wanted you to know the pain and suffering he caused me then and still causes me today. Most importantly, I want my children and anyone else who was ever treated the way I was that there is an alternative to staying in silence.”
Thomas Green of Washington was Hastert’s principal attorney and asked the judge to consider the whole of his client’s supposed life of service. Green claimed that Hastert went into “survival mode” and couldn’t admit his wrongdoing to himself — let alone federal officials, added the Chicago Tribune. Hastert, astoundingly, even asked Tom Cross, a political protégé, for a letter of support, although he is the brother of one of victims, Scott Cross.
Steven Reinboldt, another accuser, died of AIDS in 1995, and his sister, Jolene Burdge, took the stand in his stead, demanding that Hastert stop lying, noted USA Today.
“Don’t be a coward, Mr. Hastert. Tell the truth. What you did was not misconduct, it was sexual abuse of a minor.”
When Judge Durkin asked Hastert if he abused Reinboldt, he responded, “It was a different situation, sir. I will accept Ms. Burdge’s statement.”
Dennis Hastert had a stroke in late 2014 and appeared in court in a wheelchair, using a walker to stand. The 15-month sentence and supervised release were a lot less than the five years he could have received. Judge Durkin said Hastert’s health is a non-issue, and medical needs can be met in prison. Additionally, Individual A has sued for breach of contract, as he had yet to receive the remaining $1.8 million from Hastert.
[Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images]