Former U.S. house speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison, followed by 2 years of supervised release at a Chicago court on April 27. The sentencing makes Hastert one of the highest-ranking politicians in American history to be incarcerated.
The hush-money trial involved at least four students who he allegedly sexually abused decades ago when he was a wrestling coach at an Illinois high school.
Hastert told the court he was “deeply ashamed,” and that “he mistreated” students he coached, admitting that he sexually abused his victims.
Hastert, the 74-year-old Republican who served as U.S. House Speaker from 1999 to 2007, was wheeled into the Chicago Federal Courthouse before his sentencing.
Last year, he pleaded guilty to breaking a banking law as he attempted to pay $3.5 million to a person named in court documents as Individual A to hide his past. His plea suggested probation to a maximum of a 6 month sentence.
However, after Hastert’s secret was revealed, the judge hinted he might issue a longer sentence because of the sexual abuse accusations.
— Gilad Thaler (@GiladThaler) April 27, 2016
Defense attorneys asked for probation rather than jail time, citing Hastert’s health. They said a blood infection almost killed him in November, and a stroke has limited his mobility. They also said Hastert has been disgraced through the allegations.
Meanwhile, prosecutors suggested they wanted a significant prison sentence, citing sexual abuse. They went into detail about the sexual allegations against Hastert.
Individual D said that when he was 17 years old, the former speaker abused him after offering him a massage, according to court records. In the trial, he identified himself as Scott Cross, brother of Illinois Rep. Tom Cross. He said in an emotional testimony that he was a senior at the school when he was abused in 1979 by Hastert.
Cross, 53, a married father said he had never told anyone his dark secret until Hastert was indicted, according to the Chicago Tribune, who had learned of his identity before he took the stand.
Attorneys said the victims, referred to as Individuals A, B, C, and D were between 14 and 17 when they were abused, while Hastert was in his 20s and 30s. The incidents happened in a motel and the locker room at Yorkville High School outside Chicago. Prosecutors also described how Hastert sat in a recliner chair in the locker room with a direct view of the showers.
All victims were males and only one—Stephen Reinboldt—was named before the trial. Reinboldt died of AIDS in 1995. His sister said he was abused for years.
Since the statute of limitations on the sex offenses ran out decades ago, prosecutors charged Hastert instead with dodging bank reporting requirements when he withdrew the money to hide his past.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.