Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for trying to conceal hush payments to children he sexually molested while he was a high school coach. Scott Cross, one of Hastert’s teen victims, testified that Hastert abused him when he was 17-years-old. NBC News reports:
“I’ve always felt that what Coach Hastert had done to me was my darkest secret,” the father of two told the judge, adding that he was not sure until he took the stand that he could bring himself to talk about the incident.
“I wanted you to know the pain and suffering he caused me then and still causes me today. Most importantly, I want my children and anyone else who was ever treated the way I was that there is an alternative to staying in silence.”
In all, Hastert was accused of molesting four different teen boys, but charges for sexual molestation could not be brought because the statute of limitations had expired. Hastert’s attorneys were seeking probation, arguing that the 74-year-old who had a stroke recently was too ill for prison. However the judge exceeded the recommended guidelines for the crime of trying to conceal hush money transactions, which would have resulted in no more than 6 months in jail.
The Chicago Tribune reports Hastert agreed in court for the first time today that he had abused the boys he coached:
Hastert’s attorneys helped him out of his wheelchair and he shakily used a walker to move over to a microphone, where he read from prepared notes. Hastert apologized to those he victimized, saying he “mistreated athletes.” Durkin then pressed for details, asking directly if Hastert sexually abused the victims.
“Yes,” Hastert finally said…
“What I did was wrong and I regret it,” Hastert said. “They looked to me and I took advantage of them.”
Some former members of Congress wrote letters to the court on Hastert’s behalf. CNN reports:
“He is a good man that loves the Lord,” wrote former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. “He gets his integrity and values from Him. He doesn’t deserve what he is going through. I ask that you consider the man that is before you and give him leniency where you can.”
The defense received 60 letters of support on behalf of Hastert. However, when the judge in the case announced he would only consider letters that were made public, 19 of those letters were withdrawn.