Ex-US House Speaker gets 15 months for sex abuse

Former US House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for financial crimes related to his past sex abuse.
Former US House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for financial crimes related to his past sex abuse.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former US House speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Wednesday for paying hush money to quiet a victim who said the former high school wrestling coach abused him as a boy, US media said.

As part of a sentence that also includes two years of supervised release, US District Judge Thomas Durkin in Chicago also recommended that Hastert participate in a treatment program for sex offenders, the reports said.

Just before the sentence was handed down, Hastert admitted for the first time that he sexually abused boys when he taught and coached at Yorkville High School in Illinois from the 1960s to the early 1980s.

Prosecutors have provided details of abuse of at least five boys as young as 14, and said Hastert's conduct was widespread.

 

"What I did was wrong and I regret it," Hastert said after being pressed by the judge and finally admitting the abuse.

"They looked to me and I took advantage of them," he added, according to comments reported by the Chicago Tribune.

Last year, Hastert pleaded guilty to illegally structuring bank withdrawals to avoid reporting where he was sending funds as part of a US$3.5 million (S$4.7 million) settlement over the abuse, said to have been committed three decades ago.

Statutes of limitations have long passed on the abuse, so he was only charged with breaking financial laws.

Federal prosecutors say Hastert paid the man a total of $1.7 million - a little less than half the agreed amount - between 2010 and 2014 in regular payments that only stopped when the government started investigating him.

The victim who received those payments, identified as "Individual A" in last year's federal indictment against Hastert, filed a lawsuit on Monday seeking the $1.8 million still missing under their agreement.

That lawsuit claims that Hastert "violated the special trust" the victim placed in him by "sexually molesting and abusing plaintiff in a motel room" on a wrestling team trip.

Hastert, who voted against gay rights legislation as a member of Congress, served as speaker of the House of Representative from 1999 to 2007.

Hastert was forced out after allegedly turning a blind eye to a scandal involving another former lawmaker - Mark Foley - who sent sexually explicit or suggestive messages to teenage pages.