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'Serial Child Molester' Dennis Hastert Sentenced To 15 Months In Prison

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Apr 27, 2016 5:53PM

Ex-U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison Wednesday morning for committing federal bank fraud. But his sentencing hearing focused more on the sexual abuse he admitted to committing decades ago as a high school wrestling coach.

Hastert's sexual misconduct came to light when it was discovered that he had committed the bank fraud and lied to federal authorities about it in order to pay hush money to one former high school student he molested.

Hastert pled guilty to bank fraud charges last year, and his lawyers asked U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin to be lenient with the 74-year-old Republican, who suffers from health problems and arrived to court in Chicago in a wheelchair. Though he does not face charges for sexual abuse, federal authorities say there are at least five "credible" claims of abuse against him, made mostly by men who knew him when they were teenagers at a Yorkville, Illinois high school where Hastert served as wrestling coach decades ago.

Judge Durkin called Hastert a "serial child molester" in court Wednesday after Hastert admitted to four instances of sexual abuse alleged by prosecutors, according to the Sun-Times. Jolene Burdge, the sister of Stephen Reinboldt, one of the boys Hastert allegedly molested in Yorkville who died in 1995, read a letter from Reinboldt to the court.

Scott Cross also testified in court that Hastert molested him while he was a high school senior, according to USA Today. Cross's brother Tom Cross, was once a state legislator mentored by Hastert. Authorities have suggested that Scott Cross was moved to testify in Hastert's sentencing hearing after Hastert reached out to Tom Cross asking for a letter of support—a move that backfired.

"As a 17-year-old boy, I was devastated," Scott Cross said Wednesday. "I tried to figure out why Coach Hastert had singled me out ... I felt intense pain, shame and guilt ... As deeply painful as it has been to discuss with my family and with you, staying silent for years was worse it is important to tell the truth about what happened to me."

Cross was known as "Individual D" in previous court documents on the case.

Burdge, who testified before Cross, addressed Hastert directly: "Don't be a coward, Mr. Hastert. Tell the truth."

After Cross's testimony, Hastert said "I want to apologize to the boys I mistreated", according to reports. He replied "yes" when Durkin asked him whether he abused them.

In total, Hastert has been accused of sexually abusing at least five of his former high school students, including massaging a 14-year-old's groin while staying in a motel with him after a wrestling camp. That 14-year-old is known as Individual A in court documents. He also reportedly set up a chair in the boys' locker room at school from which he could watch the students change.

Hastert's misconduct came to light after authorities began investigating suspicious bank withdrawals, which he made so that he could pay hush money to Individual A. Hastert reportedly promised to pay Individual A $3.5 million and paid him $1.7 million between 2010 and 2014. Now, the man is suing Hastert for $1.8 million, citing a breach of contract.

In a Monday court filing, Individual A said he was 14 when Hastert "sexually molested" him in a motel room. The lawsuit says Hastert was a "trusted" family friend who violated the "special trust" the family put in him.