White-Collar Crime

Federal judge calls Dennis Hastert a 'serial child molester,' gives him 15 months in banking case

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Dennis Hastert

Dennis Hastert. Angela Farley / Shutterstock.com

Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty last year to structuring multiple withdrawals of his own money from bank accounts in order to avoid financial reporting requirements concerning large sums.

But he withdrew the funds to pay $1.7 million in hush money to a man who says the former U.S. House speaker sexually abused him when he was a teenager and when Hastert was working as an Illinois social studies teacher and high school wrestling coach. That, the feds argued, made Hastert’s conduct toward “Individual A”—and four other teens the government also accused Hastert of abusing—relevant to the determination of his sentence.

On Wednesday, the 74-year-old Hastert arrived at Chicago’s federal courthouse in a wheelchair to learn his fate. His lawyers had argued for probation, pointing to his health and many years of public service, and dozens of people, including well-known lawyers, sent letters to Judge Thomas Durkin in his support. Sentencing guidelines called for no more than six months behind bars, although the structuring crime carries a maximum five-year term, the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.) reports.

Durkin, who called Hastert a “serial child molester,” and said he manipulated the FBI and lied to prosecutors after his bank withdrawals were questioned, sentenced him to a 15-month prison term, followed by two years of supervised release. The judge also said Hastert should participate in a sex offender treatment program, according to the Tribune, CLTV and WLS.

While he could appropriately consider such conduct for the light it sheds on Hastert’s character, “I can’t sentence you for being a child molester,” Durkin told Hastert. He said he would have given the former speaker more time, but for his age and health.

Durkin said Hastert is likely to serve his sentence in a prison hospital and said he could wait to turn himself in until a prison hospital placement is arranged.

Two witnesses testified against Hastert during the hearing, the Tribune reports. They were the sister of one claimed abuse victim, who died earlier, and “Individual D,” now 53, a businessman who is the younger brother of a political mentor of Hastert.

“As a high school wrestler I looked up to Coach Hastert—he was a key figure in my life,” Individual D told the judge. Hence, he was stunned when Hastert started to sexually abuse him while giving him a massage one day when the two were alone in a high school wrestling room.

Although he jumped up from the table at that point, “I felt intense pain, shame and guilt,” the witness said, calling the incident “my darkest secret,” the New York Times (reg. req.) reports.

It wasn’t until last year that he told his parents what had happened, Individual D said.

When Hastert himself took the stand, he said he had “mistreated” some athletes, then admitted sexual abuse when directly questioned by the judge, the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.) reports.

“What I did was wrong and I regret it … I took advantage of them,” Hastert said. He told Durkin that he does not remember abusing Individual D, he accepted his statement.

An earlier USA Today story provides more details.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert indicted, resigns from Dickstein Shapiro”

Salon: “Republicans rush to defend Dennis Hastert, plead court for leniency in alleged pedophile hush money case”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Alleged sex abuse victim of Dennis Hastert sues to enforce claimed $3.5M compensation contract”

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