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Dennis Hastert Paid to Hide Sexual Misconduct With Student: Official

by Pete Williams, Erin McClam and Tracy Connor /  / Updated 

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Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert paid a man to conceal sexual misconduct while the man was a student at the high school where Hastert taught, a federal law enforcement official told NBC News on Friday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity. Tribune newspapers reported earlier in the day that two unnamed federal officials said that Hastert paid a man from his past to conceal sexual misconduct.

Related: Ex-Speaker Hastert Indicted Over Cash Withdrawals

Hastert was indicted Thursday on charges that he structured bank withdrawals to avoid federal reporting requirements and later lied about it to the FBI.

The indictment said that Hastert was paying an unidentified person from his past to conceal Hastert’s "prior misconduct." The indictment did not specify the alleged misconduct or name the person.

The Yorkville, Illinois, school district where Hastert taught and coached wrestling from 1965 to 1981 said that it had "no knowledge of Mr. Hastert's alleged misconduct, nor has any individual contacted the District to report any such misconduct."

Representatives for Hastert have not returned requests for comment from NBC News.

Charles Hastert, a nephew, told NBC News earlier Friday that his uncle "has always been as honest and clean as they come." He said he believes the charges are probably a political witch-hunt.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said in a statement Friday that, "The Denny I served with worked hard on behalf of his constituents and the country. I'm shocked and saddened to learn of these reports."

Hastert's former assistant coach, Anthony Houle, and Hastert's first state wrestling champion, Gary Matlock, said they were shocked by the indictment and defended the former coach and Congressman's character, in interviews conducted before sources said the case involved alleged sexual misconduct.

"The gentleman was a super professional as a teacher, as a coach, as a human being," Matlock said. "I would refer to him as my second father."

"There isn't anything that happened in the six years that I worked with Denny that would ever make me believe that there was anything improper," Houle said.

Jeff Jerabek, who was on the wrestling team in the mid-1970s, said he had never heard so much as a rumor of impropriety. He described Hastert as friendly and in tune with his students.

"If you had a problem, it wouldn’t be hard to talk to him about it," said Jerabek, whose two older brothers were also on the team. "I remember one time I was walking along with a frown and he said, ‘Hey smiley, cheer up.’ Some teachers, it’s just a job. Not him. He was a friendly guy.”

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