CHICAGO (AP) — When he steps before a judge Wednesday, Dennis Hastert will learn whether he goes to prison for breaking federal banking rules in a scheme to cover up sexual abuse.
The banking charges, punishable by up to five years behind bars, are just part of broader allegations that the former House speaker molested at least four former students when he was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School outside Chicago.
At least one of the students plans to speak in court.
Prosecutors say the 74-year-old Republican was desperate to keep the abuse secret and agreed to pay $3.5 million to a person identified only as Individual A.
Because the statute of limitations on the sex crimes ran out decades ago, prosecutors charged Hastert instead with dodging bank reporting requirements when he withdrew the hush money. He pleaded guilty in October.
In court documents, the accusers, all males, are designated only by letters A through D. Only one, a man who died in 1995, is named. Here’s what’s known about them:
Individual A was 14 when Hastert abused him, according to court documents filed by the government earlier this month. Hastert would have been in his 20s or 30s.
The teenager was one of around a dozen boys returning to Yorkville from a wrestling camp. Stopping at a motel, Hastert, the only adult on the trip, told Individual A to stay with him in one room. The other boys stayed in another room.
Hastert said he wanted to check a groin pull the boy suffered, ordering him onto a bed and telling him to take off his underwear. When the teen realized Hastert “was touching him in an inappropriate sexual way,” he jumped up, ran across the room and sat in a chair, the court papers said.
Later, he walked back and apologized to Hastert, who then told the boy to give him a back message. Confused and embarrassed, the boy complied.
Hastert’s attorneys questioned whether Hastert’s actions legally constituted sexual abuse. Prosecutors hit back in their filing: “There is no ambiguity; defendant sexually abused Individual A.”
Individual A confronted Hastert in 2010. At a prearranged meeting, he asked why Hastert had abused him. Hastert, the filing said, responded that it had been “a confusing and difficult time in his life.”
At another meeting, Hastert agreed to pay Individual A to compensate him for the abuse. Prosecutors portray the deal not as extortion but something akin to an out-of-court settlement. Individual A wanted to involve lawyers. Hastert refused.
On Monday, Individual A filed a lawsuit saying he’s been paid only about half of the money and is still owed $1.8 million. He says he’s suffered panic attacks that led to bouts of depression, hospitalization and unemployment.
Individual B was also 14 when he says Hastert abused him. It happened when he was alone in the locker room with Hastert after a workout. He told prosecutors Hastert offered him a massage, telling him it would help “loosen him up.” Hastert then “performed a sexual act” on him, the court documents said.
Individual C had just stepped out of a locker room shower when Hastert offered him a massage. He didn’t think it strange at first. But when his towel came off, Hastert brushed his hand against the boy’s genitals. “Individual C recalls that it was ‘very weird’ and made him uncomfortable,” according to the court papers. But Individual C wasn’t sure the touching was intentional.
Individual D is the only one who will speak at sentencing. He was 17 when he stayed after wrestling practice to work on losing weight for a competition. Hastert told him massages would help. After Hastert removed the teen’s pants on a table, he performed a sexual act on the boy, the papers said.
Stephan Reinboldt was named by prosecutors, who cited his sister Jolene Burdge. She also spoke previously to The Associated Press and other media organizations.
She told prosecutors Reinboldt’s first homosexual experience was with Hastert and that Hastert abused him throughout high school. Hastert, she said, had been “like a father figure” to her brother.
When Hastert attended Reinboldt’s wake in 1995, his sister confronted him, telling the then-congressman she knew what he’d done. Hastert, the papers said, “just stared at her and gave no verbal response before walking away.”
(Photo Source: AP)