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Former House Speaker Hastert Abused 4 Boys: Prosecutors

Prosecutors are urging up to 6 months in prison for the former Speaker of the House, and said payments went to a man he sexually abused while a coach.
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Justice Department prosecutors said Friday that former House speaker Dennis Hastert abused four young boys when he was their wrestling coach, and urged that he be ordered to serve up to six months in prison when he's sentenced later this month.

While Hastert has pleaded guilty to a financial violation, prosecutors said, "the actions at the core of this case took place not on the defendant's national public stage but in his private one-on-one encounters in an empty locker room and a motel room with minors that violated the special trust between those young boys and their coach."

For the first time, government lawyers said Hastert made payments to a man who was sexually abused at age 14 by Hastert when he was the boy's wrestling coach.

Prosecutors said the abuse also involved "other minors," and included touching their genitals or engaging in oral sex.

Hastert pleaded guilty in October to structuring withdrawals of money from his account in order to evade bank reporting laws. The money was to compensate a person referred to in court documents as "Individual A," and that person is still unnamed in Friday's filing.

A sixth-month sentence is the maximum allowed under federal guidelines for the banking violation.

Prosecutors said Friday that Hastert's lawyers at first claimed he was the victim of an extortion plot by Individual A, "a former Yorkville High School student and wrestler" who they said falsely claimed that Hastert touched him inappropriately during a wrestling trip decades ago.

But FBI agents later interviewed the man, who told them he met Hastert through his family members. When Hastert was his wrestling coach, he said, they ended up in the same motel room at a wrestling camp. Hastert, he said, touched him in an inappropriate way.

In 2010, the FBI said, the man thought about confronting Hastert, met with him, and asked why he had done it. Hastert said "it was a confusing and difficult time in his life. Individual A asked how many other kids defendant molested. Defendant said there were only two," according to the Friday filing.

Shortly after that meeting, prosecutors said, the man demanded that Hastert pay him $3.5 million "for what defendant had done to him."

The court documents say Hastert sexually abused four wrestlers, including Stephen Reinboldt, whose sister has publicly said he told her about it before he died.

As for Hastert's decision to enter public life, prosecutors said his "history and characteristics are marred by stunning hypocrisy."

Though he claimed after achieving a successful career that a coach should never strip away another person's dignity, "that is exactly what defendant did to his victims. He made them feel alone, ashamed, guilty, and devoid of dignity."

While he was admired for his success in politics, "these boys struggled, and are all still struggling now."

Hastert's lawyers said Wednesday the appropriate punishment is probation, given his declining health and the personal toll the scandal has taken on him.

Hastert is profoundly sorry for his "mistakes in judgment and his transgressions," and the judge should consider the entirety of his career, "including the fact that he reshaped his life many years ago," they said.

In addition to suffering humiliation and isolation, Hastert's lawyers said, he has a rare blood infection that required hospitalization for two months, during which he nearly died.

"Mr. Hastert continues to need assistance with all major activities of daily living except for feeding himself — he needs assistance getting out of bed, toileting, bathing and dressing."

Hastert's sentencing, delayed because of his health problems, is now scheduled for April 27.