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Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Sentenced To 15 Months In Prison


Dennis Hastert was once one of the most powerful men in Washington. Today a federal judge in Chicago called him a serial child molester. In court, the former House speaker admitted that he sexually abused teenage boys when he was a wrestling coach decades ago, and he apologized. He received a sentence of 15 months in prison for illegally structuring bank withdrawals. That was how he paid hush money to one of his victims. From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Far from having the burly physique of a man his loyal party members endearingly called Coach during his term as the longest-serving Republican speaker of the House, a slouched and frail Dennis Hastert entered Chicago's downtown federal courts building in a wheelchair. The sullen-looking 74-year-old listened to the powerful testimony of one of his sexual abuse victims. Then, with the help of a walker, he stood before Judge Thomas Durkin and apologized.

I'm sorry to those I hurt and misled, Hastert read from a prepared statement, and I apologize to the boys I mistreated. Asked directly by Judge Durkin if he molested the boys, Hastert quietly said yes. And with that one word marked the stunning fall from grace for a man once second in line to the presidency. Chicago's U.S. attorney, Zachary Fardon...


ZACHARY FARDON: Mr. Hastert's legend and legacy are gone, and in its place are a broken, humiliated man. That is as it should be.

SCHAPER: Fardon praises the victims of Hastert's sexual abuse for coming forward.


FARDON: Mr. Hastert hurt his victims many decades ago, but today they struck back.

SCHAPER: And Fardon lauded the Hastert victim in particular who refused to remain anonymous any longer and stood in court today and publicly acknowledged being molested by Hastert.


FARDON: That was courageous. That was selfless. That was important, and I am in awe of it.

SCHAPER: That victim is 53-year-old Scott Cross, brother of former Illinois House Republicans Leader and Hastert political protege Tom Cross. Scott Cross emotionally told the court that when he was a 17-year-old senior and captain of the Yorkville Wrestling Team, Hastert molested him while the two were alone in a locker room. Cross says the sexual abuse and violation of trust scars him to this day.

He is 1 of 5 boys prosecutors say Hastert molested in the late 1960s and '70s. Another, identified only as individual A, confronted Hastert in 2008 about the abuse. Hastert agreed to pay him for his silence, pain and suffering. Hastert's large cash withdrawals caught the attention of the FBI, so he lied and said he was the victim of extortion. Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network by Those Abused by Priests, says that lie victimized the individual again.

BARBARA BLAINE: What Denny Hastert was trying to do was to - was trying to frame someone who he sexually molested years ago, and it was just wrong.

SCHAPER: In sentencing Hastert to 15 months in prison, Judge Durkin had strong words. I can't sentence you for being a child molester, the judge said, noting that the statute of limitations on the sexual abuse had long run out. But in imposing the sentence, Judge Durkin said some conduct is unforgivable no matter how old it is. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.