Dennis Hastert, Former House Speaker, Sentenced To 15 Months In Federal Prison
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine to a victims’ fund in a hush money case, which discovered that he was being accused of sexually abusing four boys, aged between 14 and 17. He also must report himself as a sex offender and take a one year-long treatment program.
On top of that, Hastert is being forced to two years of supervised release once his sentence is up. Originally, his attorneys asked for a six-month or less prison term, as part of a plea deal, but U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin refused. “Nothing is more disturbing than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘Speaker of the House’ in the same sentence,” Durkin said.
Hastert pleaded guilty to illegally structuring bank withdrawls – banks must report all withdrawls that are more than $10,000 to the IRS – between 2010 and 2014 to pay off one of his victims, identified as Individual A in the Chicago federal court. The maximum sentence for that crime is five years.
Hastert originally promised him $3.5 million in a settlement, out of which roughly half ($1.7 million) has been paid, but Individual A is suing for the rest. Hastert claimed he was the victim of blackmail by Individual A for false molestation accusations, his lawyer said. Authorities claim this is not true, explaining that Individual A simply wanted to use lawyers to negotiate a settlement with Hastert and not involve outside parties.
He is not being charged with sexual abuse from when he was a teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville High School in Illinois because of the statute of limitations. The law varies per state.
His punishment would have been much more severe, had he been charged with sexual abuse of a minor. USA Today reported that, “Under current Illinois law, Hastert would have faced between three and seven years in state prison if convicted of a single count of sexual misconduct with a minor.”
One of the boys affected in the case is Scott Cross, the brother of notable Illinois politician Tom Cross, who was previously known as Individual D by the court. According to ABC News, Scott recounts being “‘Offered massages’ to him in order to help him lose weight.” Later on in the one-time incident, Hastert, “grabbed my penis and began to rub me. Stunned, I pulled up my shorts and ran out of the locker room.”
Cross was a high school senior and 17 at the time. “I’ve always felt that what Coach Hastert had done to me was my darkest secret,” he said.
He was a Yorkville student and a member of its wrestling team. Scott decided to testify after Hastert and his defense team reached out to his brother for a letter of support. Tom served in the Illinois House of Representatives for 22 years.
Scott was not the only victim of Hastert’s transgressions. In an emotional interview with ABC News, Jolene Burdge said she first learned of her late brother Steve Reinboldt’s supposed sexual abuse, which lasted for years, from the future Speaker of the House in the late 1960s and early 1970s when her brother revealed to her that he was gay. It was 1979, years after the alleged abuse, and seven years before he was first elected to Congress.
“I asked [Steve], when was your first same-sex experience. He looked at me and said, ‘It was with Dennis Hastert,’” she said. “I was stunned.”
Burdge asked her brother why he never came forward. “And he just turned around and kind of looked at me and said, ‘Who is ever going to believe me?’” she recalled.
Hastert offered an apology to his victims. “I’m deeply ashamed to be standing before you here today,” he said in court during his sentencing. “I know I’m here because I mistreated some of my athletes as a coach.”
Hastert also said sorry “to my constituents and my supporters and also my colleagues I served with,” along with his family and friends. He did not, however, mention a specific act in his comments.
While many want to see him behind bars, there are also several people who came to his defense, writing letters to Durkin to ease up his sentence. “He is a good man that loves the Lord,” wrote former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. “He gets his integrity and values from Him. He doesn’t deserve what he is going through. I ask that you consider the man that is before you and give him leniency where you can.”
Some also cited Hastert’s health problems as a major factor to make a more lenient sentence. He suffered a stroke, a blood stream infection and a spinal infection recently. “There are no guarantees that the defendant won’t get sicker in prison,” the judge countered. “There are no guarantees that he won’t get sicker at home.”
Durkin said he would recommend Hastert being sent to a prison hospital. “This is not meant to be a death sentence,” he said.
Durkin has not yet assigned a prison date to Hastert.