Longest-Serving GOP Speaker In History Is A Liar And Serial Child Molester, Federal Judge Says

Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert departs the federal courthouse in Chicago. A man who alleges he was sexually abused by Hastert decades ago and was later promised $3.5 million to stay quiet filed a federal lawsuit saying he’s only been paid about half the money. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHRISTIAN K. LEE
Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert departs the federal courthouse in Chicago. A man who alleges he was sexually abused by Hastert decades ago and was later promised $3.5 million to stay quiet filed a federal lawsuit saying he’s only been paid about half the money. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHRISTIAN K. LEE

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was sentenced in federal court today to 15 months in prison and a $250,000 fine, in addition to two years of supervised release, on the condition that he get treatment as a sex offender. Last year, Hastert pled guilty to breaking banking laws by making illegal withdrawals — which he then lied about to the FBI.

Hastert took out $1.7 million in small amounts to avoid suspicion, according to the indictment, which he then used as hush money to prevent a victim of sexual abuse from going public. The victim, identified only as “Individual A” in the court papers, was a 14-year-old on Hastert’s wrestling team when Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High school in Illinois. When the allegations become public, three other victims came forward and said that they had been molested by Hastert while he was their wrestling coach. While the statute of limitations on the sexual crimes ran out long ago, the judge can take any behavior surrounding the banking crimes into account when sentencing.

One of Hastert’s victims, now 53-year-old Scott Cross, came forward publicly for the first time before today’s sentencing. He testified that he was molested by Dennis Hastert while on the wrestling team in 1979. He was 17 years old at the time.

Cross’ brother, Tom Cross, is a former Republican House Minority Leader in the Illinois legislature and a former Hastert political ally. Hastert mentored Cross and helped him get into politics. Hastert asked his former protege for a letter of support earlier this year, but by then Tom Cross knew of his brother’s allegation and declined.

The sister of another alleged victim, Stephen Reinboldt, also testified. At the sentencing, Hastert admitted to wrongdoing and apologized to the boys he “mistreated,” including Reinboldt. He also said that he didn’t remember abusing Cross — but that he accepted his allegations.

In sentencing, Judge Thomas M. Durkin called Hastert a “serial child molester” and noted that any sentence he would be able to give would be far less than what Hastert would have received for his sexual crimes.

Hastert’s lawyers pleaded with the judge to consider his years of public service when sentencing. Hastert served as Speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007, the longest run of any Republican, and was a prominent voice in the push for President Clinton’s impeachment.

Hastert, whom the judge accused of lying repeatedly during his trial, years ago stood in front of the Senate and castigated President Clinton for lying under oath.

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While in the Congress, Hastert also spoke out in support of stronger punishment for child molesters — particularly repeat offenders, whom he said should be put into jail for “the rest of their lives” — and about the “lessons” he learned as a high school wrestling coach, speeches that take on a disturbing tinge considering in light of the revelation that he sexually abused several of his underage wrestlers.

Many of Hastert’s supporters wrote public letters to the judge, attesting to his character and asking for leniency, including former Republican congressional leader Tom Delay.

“He doesn’t deserve what he’s going through,” Delay wrote of Hastert, a confirmed child molester. He also called Hastert “a man of integrity” who “loves and respects his fellow man.”