After pleading guilty to concealing hush money payments, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday to 15 months in prison and two years of supervised release. Hastert was also ordered to pay $250,000 to a victims’ fund after admitting to sexually abusing his students, decades before serving as Speaker of the House.
First elected to Congress in 1987, Hastert went on to replace Newt Gingrich as House Speaker in 1999. After the Democrats took control of the House in 2006, Hastert resigned his seat the following year. He later joined the law firm Dickstein Shapiro LLP as a lobbyist but resigned from the firm last year.
Between 1965 and 1981, Hastert worked as a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville, Illinois. During that time, Hastert sexually abused several of his male students and athletes.
Years later, Hastert agreed to provide a former student identified as “Individual A” $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against the student. From 2010 to 2014, Hastert withdrew a total of roughly $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts and provided the money to Individual A. But in April 2012, bank representatives began questioning Hastert regarding his routine $50,000 cash withdrawals.
To evade the filing of Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs), which banks are required to file for cash withdrawals in excess of $10,000, Hastert restructured his withdrawals in increments of less than $10,000. During pre-arranged meetings every few weeks, Hastert would give between $50,000 and $100,000 in cash to Individual A in exchange for his silence.
Investigated by the FBI and IRS, Hastert allegedly provided false statements to federal agents when claiming he did not give the money to his former student. Charged with structuring cash withdrawals of $952,000 on at least 106 occasions in order to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000 and lying to the FBI about his withdrawals, Hastert initially faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
In October 2015, Hastert agreed to plead guilty to the structuring charge in exchange for the prosecution dropping the false statements charge. Faced with a maximum sentence of five years in prison, Hastert received 15 months instead. He is also required to comply with a sex offender treatment program.
At his sentencing on Wednesday, Hastert stated, “I am deeply ashamed to be standing here today. I know I am here because I mistreated some of my athletes that I coached… I want to apologize to the boys I mistreated. I was wrong and I accept that.”
While sentencing Hastert, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin referred to the former House Speaker as a “serial child molester.” In addition to Individual A’s reported abuse,
Scott Cross came forward on Wednesday identifying himself as Individual D, who Hastert had groped during a massage in the locker room. Jolene Burdge also spoke on Wednesday about the years-long abuse her deceased brother, Steve Reinboldt, received at the hands of Hastert during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“I asked him, when was your first same-sex experience. He looked at me and said, ‘It was with Dennis Hastert,’” Burdge said. “I was stunned.”
When asked why he never told anyone, Reinboldt reportedly told his sister, “Who is ever going to believe me?”
Earlier this week, Individual A filed a lawsuit against Hastert for failing to pay him the entire $3.5 million in promised hush money. Claiming Hastert had psychologically traumatized him and only paid out $1.7 million, Individual A is seeking to collect the other $1.8 million promised to him.