Ex-speaker Dennis Hastert begins prison sentence over molestation scandal

By Doug G. Ware  |  June 22, 2016 at 4:37 PM
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ROCHESTER, Minn., June 22 (UPI) -- Former Illinois congressman and U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert began serving his prison sentence on Wednesday that was given him after prosecution related to a molestation scandal that was exposed by a former victim.

Hastert, 74, reported to the Rochester Federal Medical Center in Minnesota on Wednesday -- arriving in a wheelchair and followed by an acquaintance carrying his crutches. He will spend the entirety of his 15-month term at the facility, which manages inmates with long-term health conditions. Inside, he will be known as prisoner No. 47991-424.

The 51st U.S. House speaker was arrested by the FBI early last year after it was learned that he was making several cash transactions, each under $10,000, at his bank -- presumably hush money for a former victim.

Banks are required to notify federal authorities for all transactions over $10,000, so when Hastert began undercutting that threshold the bank became suspicious and notified the FBI.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Hastert was attempting to pay off a man whom the congressman sexually abused while he was a teacher and wrestling coach at an Illinois high school in the 1960s and 1970s, before he entered politics.

Hastert himself admitted to the sexual abuse and reached an agreement to plead guilty to a charge of bank fraud. The maximum allowable sentence for the charge was five years in prison and a quarter-million dollar fine. Hastert's attorneys asked for probation, but the politician received 15 months and two years of supervised release and must undergo sex offender treatment.

Hastert served as House speaker for eight years between 1999 and 2007, a position that placed him second-in line in the order of U.S. presidential succession, after the vice president (Al Gore and Dick Cheney, during his term).

At trial, Judge Thomas Durkin demonstrated contempt for Hastert's molesting of at least four young boys while he was an educator.

"Nothing is more disturbing than having serial child molester and speaker of the House in the same sentence," the judge said.

Hastert ultimately apologized in court.

"I want to apologize to the boys I mistreated when I was a coach," he said. "They looked [up to] me and I took advantage of them."

Video: The Post-Bulletin/YouTube
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