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You cannot judge a person's character or qualities by their title or standing in society, and Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is proof positive of this. The longest-serving Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives today admitted to abusing at least one student while he was a high school wrestling coach decades ago.
The admission came during a sentencing hearing on his plea of guilty to charges of illegally structuring bank withdrawals to evade reporting rules for large transactions. The money Hastert was hiding was being paid to a man who says the Former Speaker abused him sexually when he was a 14 years old.
The statute of limitations ran on the filing of criminal charges for sexual abuse, meaning Hastert actually got off easy, as he would have faced much more severe sentencing if molestation had been charged and proven. Regardless, the judge today called Hastert a "serial child molester."
According to National Public Radio, Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison for the hush-money payments that prosecutors say were made to an alleged sexual abuse victim identified only as "Individual A." Hastert will also be on probation for two years after prison and will have to attend sex offender treatment, in addition to paying $250,000 in fines to a crime victims fund.
The witnesses in the case against Hastert were unnamed in the filings, but today a man previously identified as "Individual D" spoke before the sentence was handed down. Scott Cross, 53, is the brother of another Illinois politician and he too said he was abused by Hastert. He is the brother of former Illinois House Representative Tom Cross.
"As a 17-year-old boy I was devastated. I tried to figure out why Coach Hastert had singled me out. I felt terribly alone," Scott Cross testified, according to NBC News. "Today I understand I did nothing to bring this on, but at age 17, I could not understand what happened or why."
Hastert said today that he feels ashamed of what he did as a teacher and coach in Illinois in the 1960s and 1970s. He said he had "mistreated" athletes, which is maybe a euphemistic way of saying molested. Regardless, he reportedly said, "What I did was wrong and I regret it."
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