Former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison, followed by two years of probation and sex-offender treatment for a financial crime related to his sexual abuse of high school wrestlers decades ago.
US District Court Judge Thomas Durkin on Wednesday called Hastert a serial sex abuser in handing down the sentence, which was longer than the zero to six months recommended by federal prosecutors.
Durkin said the sentence would have been even longer if it weren’t for Hastert’s age, 74, and poor health.
Frail and clinging to a walker, Hastert, once one of the most powerful politicians in the United States, stood in court and acknowledged that he had sexually abused boys when he was a teacher and coach in his hometown of Yorkville, Illinois and apologised.
“I’m sorry to those I hurt and misled. I wanted to apologise for the boys I mistreated when I was a coach,” Hastert told Durkin at the two-hour sentencing hearing in federal court in downtown Chicago.
Durkin asked Hastert if he acknowledged sexual abuse of his victims and Hastert said he did.
Hastert, the longest-serving Republican House speaker in history and a successful international lobbyist, last October pleaded guilty to structuring, which is withdrawing a large sum of money in small increments to avoid detection.
He was paying the money to one of his five victims. Durkin said that an extremely aggravating factor in the sentencing was that Hastert lied to federal agents about the money and falsely claimed that the victim was extorting him.
Scott Cross, 53, another one of Durkin’s victims, spoke during the hearing. It was the first time that any of his five victims has spoken publicly.
“I wanted you to know and understand how Mr Hastert violated the trust I put in him as a high school student.
“I wanted you to know the pain he caused me then and still does today,” Cross told Durkin, as he choked up during his declaration.