Former Republican House speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months behind bars on Wednesday for illegally structuring bank transactions in an effort to cover up his sexual abuse of young members of a wrestling team he coached decades ago.
The federal judge called Hastert a “serial child molester,” and fined him $250,000 as well as ordering him to participate in a sex offender program.
Press TV reports: Hastert was not charged with sex crimes because the statute of limitations had passed, giving him a sort of immunity. However, he admitted for the first time on Wednesday that he abused multiple student-athletes at the Yorkville High School in Illinois from the 1960s to the early 1980s.
“What I did was wrong and I regret it,” Hastert said after being pressed by the judge. “They looked to me and I took advantage of them.”
Prosecutors say at least five boys as young as 14 were abused by the Republican politician.
Last year, Hastert pleaded guilty to illegally structuring bank withdrawals to avoid reporting where he was sending the money as part of a $3.5 million settlement over the abuse.
Federal prosecutors say Hastert paid a total of $1.7 million between 2010 and 2014, which only stopped when the court started investigating him.
Hastert apologized to his victims for his past conduct and to the government for lying, but Judge Durkin told him: “Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘speaker of the House’ in the same sentence”
According to Mother Jones, he also rejected arguments from Hastert’s lawyers that the former speaker was infirm and clueless about much of what allegedly happened with one of the victims. “At the time this was going on, sir, you were a lobbyist,” he told Hastert. Even so, Durkin acknowledged that he was limited in how far he could go in sentencing Hastert, in large part because he’d only been charged with banking crimes. “I can’t sentence you as a child molester,” Durkin lamented.