A judge sentenced former GOP Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to 15 months in prison Wednesday for a felony banking crime tied to his attempts to hide decades-old sexual-abuse allegations. Hastert, who pleaded guilty to illegally structured bank withdrawals last fall, made those transactions to pay $1.7 million in hush money to a former student on a wrestling team Hastert coached at an Illinois school before his long career in politics.
Hastert, who’s been accused of molesting at least four teenage boys back in his coaching days, cannot face prosecution for any sex abuse because the statute of limitations has long passed. Still, the judge clearly considered it in his sentencing, saying, “Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘Speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.” In addition to the 15 months in prison, Hastert will have two years of supervised release after his term, and he must pay a $250,000 fine. The judge imposed a sentence even harsher than the six months in prison prosecutors requested. The judge also dismissed the arguments of Hastert’s lawyers, who asked for probation, citing the Speaker’s failing health.
Hastert, who sat in a wheelchair, did give a short apology to the victims. “What I did was wrong and I regret it,” Hastert said in court. “They looked to me and I took advantage of them.” One of Hastert’s alleged victims — now publicly identified as Scott Cross, but known in court papers as Individual D — testified against Hastert at the sentencing about how his former coach had molested him in a locker room as a high-school senior. “I wanted you to know the pain and suffering he caused me then and still causes me today,” Cross said in court. “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.”
The alleged abuse victim at the center of the case against Hastert, known only as Individual A, did not testify in court, but is suing Hastert for $1.8 million — the remainder of the $3.5 million in hush money the man says he was promised by the former politician.