Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Sought To Hide Sexual Abuse Of Minors, Prosecutors Say
Prosecutors are also recommending that Hastert spend up to six months behind bars for violating financial laws. The statute of limitations has expired on the alleged sex crimes.
Federal prosecutors on Friday detailed how former House Speaker Dennis Hastert allegedly molested high school students during his time as a wrestling coach and then used payoffs to keep it quiet, committing financial crimes in the process.
Prosecutors are also asking that Hastert — who represented Illinois and was House speaker from 1999 to 2007 — be sentenced to a maximum six months in prison for the financial he crimes committed after agreeing to pay one of his alleged victims $3.5 million in hush money.
In documents filed in court Friday, prosecutors also revealed new details about Hastert's alleged sexual abuse against multiple boys while working as a high school wrestling coach.
The case started to unfold in 2012 after bank employees noticed that Hastert had been making unusual withdrawals, including some for $50,000. When the bank's risk management officer asked Hastert what was going on, the lawmaker-turned-lobbyist replied that "the withdrawals were none of his business," the documents state.
After learning that withdraws of $10,000 or more are flagged, Hastert reportedly began pulling out money in $9,000 increments.
The FBI and the IRS began investigating the case in 2013 and learned that Hastert had been withdrawing money from other banks as well. Investigators believed the withdrawals were meant to circumvent laws and eventually interviewed Hastert, who according to the court filings said had a desire to keep his cash "in a safe place."
Hastert's attorney later reportedly contacted investigators and said the former House speaker was being extorted by a man who claimed to have been sexually abused during a wrestling trip.
Hastert's attorney said the accusation was false. But the court documents state that when investigators first heard Individual A as they listened in on a phone call with Hastert, his "tone and comments" were "inconsistent with someone committing extortion."
Agents subsequently interviewed the alleged victim and obtained a detailed account of the abuse he claimed to have suffered — which he said happened in a motel on a wrestling trip — as well as the evolution of the agreement to accept money.
Hastert ultimately withdrew $1.7 million in cash, which was used to pay off one of the man. He allegedly had agreed to pay a total of $3.5 million to the man.
The documents detail Hastert's abuse against a total of four people, including the man he was paying off, two other victims who spoke with investigators, and a third man who died 1995.
A fifth person told investigators that while he was a high school wrestler he received a massage from Hastert, whose hand brushed against his genitals.
The documents slam Hastert, saying his "history and characteristics are marred by stunning hypocrisy" and that he made the alleged victims "feel alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity."
"While defendant achieved great success, reaping all the benefits that went with it, these boys struggled, and all are still struggling now with what [the] defendant did to them," the documents add.
Prosecutors also believe "there is no ambiguity; defendant sexually abused" the victim he was paying off. But despite that, he "suggested ambiguity about whether those facts constitute sexual misconduct."
In a statement to BuzzFeed News Saturday, Hastert's attorney Thomas Green said that as a young man the former congressman "committed transgressions for which he is profoundly sorry."
"We also advised the Court," he statement continued, "that the profound humiliation and public shaming Mr. Hastert has and will continue to experience, coupled with the resulting isolation and abandonment he has endured, are already significant punishment and have undoubtedly contributed to his fragile medical condition."
The statute of limitations on the alleged sexual crimes had lapsed by the time investigators learned of Hastert's large bank withdrawals. But prosecutors ultimately charged him with lying to the FBI and violating financial laws.
Hastert pleaded guilty to one of those financial charges in October. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 27.
Hastert was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1987 and previously served as a state politician in Illinois. His position as speaker made him second in the succession for president.