Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been released from federal prison in Minnesota. The Illinois Republican had been serving a 15-month sentence for banking violations. Hastert was convicted in April 2016, of structuring bank transactions in an effort to conceal $3.5 million in hush money he was paying out to men he admitted to molesting while he was a high school wrestling coach in Illinois.
According to the New York Times, Judge Thomas M. Durkin had some harsh words for Dennis Hastert at his sentencing last year.
“The defendant is a serial child molester,” Judge Durkin said. “Some actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works. Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘Speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.”
Due to the statute of limitations on such cases in Illinois, Hastert was never charged with molesting the young boys he coached. The banking felony for which he was convicted carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. At his sentencing, Hastert expressed remorse and admitted to the sexual abuse.
“The thing I want to do today is say I’m sorry to those I hurt and misled,” Hastert said. “I want to apologize to the boys I mistreated when I was their coach. What I did was wrong and I regret it.”
Given the fact that decades passed between the abuse and Dennis Hastert’s apology, which only came after his crimes came to light, some people might be inclined to take Hastert’s words of remorse with a grain of salt. Facing a possible five years in prison, Hastert had every reason to convince the court he was sorry for what he did. Jolene Burdge, the sister of one of Hastert’s alleged victims, told ABC News that she confronted Hastert at her brother’s funeral to let him know her brother, Steven Reinboldt, had confessed to her about Hastert’s abuse. Reinboldt died from AIDS in 1995. Burdge said Hastert just stared blankly at her before getting in his car and leaving the parking lot of the funeral parlor. Burdge said that she believes the abuse her brother received from Dennis Hastert made her brother’s life difficult.
“He took his belief in himself and his kind of right to be a normal person,” Burdge said. “Here was the mentor, the man who was, you know, basically his friend and stepped into that parental role, who was the one who was abusing him. He damaged Steve I think more than any of us will ever know.”
According to Huffington Post, Dennis Hastert spent his time as Republican House Speaker advancing the extreme anti-gay agenda of the Republican Party. Toward the end of Bill Clinton’s term, Democrats were trying to broaden federal hate crime statutes to cover crimes against people due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Hastert vehemently fought these efforts at every turn. In 2004, Hastert brought legislation to the House floor for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Despite his dark secret, Hastert was willing to toe the party line and work to advance the GOP’s agenda.
Dennis Hastert, who is 75-years-old, is currently living in a re-entry facility in Chicago as he prepares for life outside of prison.
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]