(CHICAGO) — Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was sentenced Thursday in federal court to 15 months in prison and two years of supervised release after he faced one of his accusers, who identified himself publicly for the first time as Scott Cross, a former Yorkville High School wrestling student.
Cross, who was until now identified in court documents only as “Individual D,” took the stand and introduced himself as a father, husband and businessman. Cross described his abuse by Hastert as “his darkest secret as he [Hastert] became more powerful.”
Hastert has also been required to comply with a sex offender treatment program. The sentence follows an almost year-long hush money case hinging on payments Hastert made to a student he allegedly sexually abused while acting as a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in Illinois.
Cross said Hastert had “offered massages” to him in order to help him lose weight. He went on to describe a one-time incident when he was 17, saying Hastert “grabbed my penis and began to rub me. Stunned, I pulled up my shorts and ran out of the locker room.”
Cross said he decided to testify after Hastert and his defense team reached out to his brother, Illinois politician Tom Cross, for a letter of support. Tom Cross served in the Illinois House of Representatives for 22 years.
Scott Cross was on the varsity wrestling team at Yorkville High School when Hastert was a coach in the 1970s.
Using a walker, Hastert approached the judge. “I am deeply ashamed to be standing here today,” he said. “I know I am here because I mistreated some of my athletes that I coached. … I want to apologize to the boys I mistreated. I was wrong and I accept that.”
The man formerly second in line for the presidency was wheeled into court Thursday morning by attendants. In a January court filing, Hastert’s lawyers revealed that the former speaker’s health had rapidly declined following a stroke and a blood infection, and that he now needed “assistance for most daily activities.”
Hastert technically faced a maximum penalty of five years.
Dozens of Hastert’s supporters have written letters to the judge asking for mercy, including former Republican Congressional leader Tom Delay, who called Hastert “a man of integrity. He loves and respects his fellow man.”
CIA Director Porter Goss called Hastert “a rock solid guy with center-of-the country values.”
Hastert pleaded guilty in October to violating bank laws in connection with paying out hush money over the years allegedly to one of his victims, and in April his defense team made a filing publicly acknowledging the “harm” he caused to “others” for “misconduct that occurred decades ago.”
“Mr. Hastert is deeply sorry and apologizes for his misconduct that occurred decades ago and the resulting harm he caused to others,” the filing states. “Mr. Hastert’s fall from grace has been swift and devastating. Neither we as his lawyers, nor Mr. Hastert, have the present insight to understand and reconcile the unfortunate and harmful incidents he caused decades ago with the enduring achievements, leadership, and generosity that earned him extraordinary affection and respect throughout this country during his many years of public service.”
The filing does not identify the past “misconduct,” but last summer, sources knowledgeable of the case told ABC News that Hastert was paying a man — still unidentified except as “Individual A” in court documents — hundreds of thousands of dollars to hide that Hastert had allegedly sexually abused him while Hastert was a high school wrestling coach.
Hastert had originally pleaded not guilty, even after the sister of another purported sexual abuse victim came forward to tell her late brother’s story to ABC News.
In an emotional interview, Jolene Burdge said she first learned of her late brother Steve Reinboldt’s purported years-long sexual abuse at the hands of the future Speaker of the House in the late 1960s and early 1970s when her brother revealed to her that he was gay. It was 1979, years after the alleged abuse.
“I asked him, when was your first same-sex experience. He looked at me and said, ‘It was with Dennis Hastert,’” she said. “I was stunned.”
Burdge said she asked her brother why he never told anyone. “And he just turned around and kind of looked at me and said, ‘Who is ever going to believe me?’”
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