Dennis Hastert, former Republican U.S. House speaker, will serve 15 months in federal prison for illegally paying money to keep an alleged sex abuse victim quiet.
He is the first former U.S. House speaker to be convicted and sentenced. He served in his post as House speaker from 1999 to 2007, the longest term for any House speaker. On Wednesday, he begins his prison term.
In October, Hastert pleaded guilty to charges that he broke federal banking laws and lied to the federal authorities to hide that he molested a high school wrestler he coached. However, Hastert is not going to jail primarily for the sexual abuse allegations, but rather for the banking laws he broke when attempting to buy the alleged victim’s silence and for lying to the FBI when they began investigating his bank transactions.
Three years ago, Hastert appeared on the radars of both the FBI and the IRS for withdrawing large amounts of cash from various banks. Investigators believed he was being extorted, and at first, Hastert claimed he was. He stated that a man was making false claims that Hastert had molested him. When FBI agents heart Hastert talk on the phone with the man who was allegedly blackmailing him, FBI agents became suspicious. They interviewed the man making the claims and determined them to be credible. Soon, other victims with similar stories came forward.
In October, Hastert stated that he withdrew money in small amounts in order to avoid reporting them. Federal law states that cash transactions over $10,000 should be reported using a Currency Transaction Report; this is meant to trace criminal activity. It is illegal to divide larger transactions into smaller ones to avoid reporting the money to the IRS.
Later on, investigators discovered that Hastert was attempting to retrieve enough money to keep the man who accused him of sexual assault quiet. According to records, the man reported that Hastert had agreed to pay him $3.5 million.
Federal investigators did not charge Hastert with sexual misconduct. There are five victims from when he coached high school wrestling in the 1970s who accuse him of sexual misconduct. Attorneys wanted to prosecute Hastert for sexual misconduct, but the statute of limitations ran out. Since one of Hastert’s alleged victims did not want to take the stand during trial, attorneys secured a plea deal with Hastert on banking laws. At his April sentencing, Hastert said he was “deeply ashamed” to be in court and that he “mistreated some of my athletes that I coached.”
“The looked to me and I took advantage of them.”
During sentencing, Judge Thomas Durkin called Hastert a “serial child molester,” and sentenced him to undergo a sex offender treatment program. He also sentenced Hastert to 15 months in prison for violating federal banking laws.
Hastert is expected to serve his 15 months in a federal prison hospital in Minnesota. Once freed, he must undergo two years on supervised release.