Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican House Speaker in history, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison and two years of supervised release for illegally structuring bank withdrawals in an effort to conceal his alleged sexual abuse of boys decades ago, according to the Chicago Tribune.
While the statute of limitation on the sex abuse allegations had expired, they had a major impact on the tenor and tone of the sentencing. The sentencing was the first time Hastert publicly admitted to abusing wrestlers on his team. Multiple news agencies in the room pointed out that when asked explicitly if he had sexually abused young men, Hastert answered “yes.”
According to multiple reports from inside the courthouse, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin called the case one of the most taxing he’s ever overseen as he referred to Hastert as a “serial child molester.”
“Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘speaker of the House’ in the same sentence,” the judge said, according to Chicago Tribune reporters in the courtroom.
Hastert pleaded guilty to the structuring charge in October, but suffered a stroke in November, delaying his sentencing. Hastert’s health also factored into the judges’ sentencing. According to the Chicago Tribune, Durkin said he did not want Hastert’s prison sentence to be a death sentence, which is why he wanted him to be in a “level 4 facility” so he could receive regular medical care.
Hastert withdrew nearly $1 million in less than $10,000 increments from his bank account over a four-year period, sparking the interest of federal investigators who originally worried Hastert may have been extorted. In fact, Hastert was paying the money to a man who alleged Hastert sexually abused him on a wrestling trip years ago. The agreement had been set up in 2010, decades after the alleged abuse occurred. By that time Hastert had gone from wrestling coach to Illinois congressman to speaker of the House and was three years into his retirement. Hastert will never be tried for any alleged sex abuse because the statute of limitations has run out.
On Wednesday, both Jolene Burdge, the sister of alleged sex abuse victim Stephen Reinboldt and Individual D testified. Burdge read a letter her brother had written before he died.
“Don’t be a coward Mr. Hastert. Tell the truth. What you did wasn’t misconduct. It was sexual abuse of a minor,” Burdge said in court Wednesday according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.
Individual D identified himself on the stand as Scott Cross, the brother of former Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, who had been a political protege of Hastert’s.
Hastert also took the stand Wednesday, apologizing to alleged sex abuse victims and to the FBI, which according to the Chicago Tribune he said he misled.
A sentencing document detailed the alleged abuse as well as noted the existence of at least three other victim. Hastert’s alleged assaults all followed a similar pattern. Hastert would allegedly offer individuals massages before allegedly assaulting them. The document disclosed that Hastert had allegedly abused one victim Stephen Reinboldt over several years.
Through the plea deal, the prosecution and defense had agreed Hastert spend between zero and six months in custody.