The woman who came forward last year to say former House speaker Dennis Hastert sexually abused her late brother said Saturday that court filings detailing additional sexual abuse allegations against Hastert are "validating."
"It’s very validating to me that Steve’s story is finally being believed and acknowledged," said Jolene Burdge, the sister of Steve Reinboldt, who Burdge said was abused by Hastert while her brother was a wrestling team equipment manager at Yorkville High School, where Hastert coached. Reinboldt died of AIDS in 1995. "On the same light, it makes me very sad for the other boys that have gone through this," Burdge told NBC News.
Documents filed Friday by Justice Department prosecutors accused Hastert of abusing three other boys when he was their wrestling coach, and said for the first time Hastert made payments to a man who was sexually abused at age 14.
"It’ll probably take a long time for people to come to terms with it because he was a beloved man and probably in many ways still is," Burdge said of Hastert. "And he was the last person on earth they would ever think would be guilty of something like this, which goes back to why Steve thought that no one would ever believe him."
Burdge said she's "overjoyed" that her brother's account has been backed up, and she hopes that if other victims are out there, they find closure and peace knowing that the truth has been uncovered.
"But I’m sad that it ever had to happen in the first place. These just weren’t other boys that these things happened to. These were people that I went to school with," Burdge said.
She said she also hopes the statute of limitations for sexual abuse will be amended. "This happened to these boys when they were 14 or 15. There’s no way a young man at that age probably even realized what was happening let alone go and tell authorities about it," she said. "So I hope they’ll start taking a look at that."
Hastert was never charged with sexual abuse because the statute of limitations had expired and he pleaded guilty only to a financial charge.
Prosecutors are urging that Hastert be sentenced to six months in prison, but Hastert's lawyers are fighting for probation for the 74-year-old who is in poor health.
"He earnestly apologizes to his former students, family, friends, previous constituents and all others affected by the harm his actions have caused," Hastert's lawyer, Thomas Green, said in a statement Saturday.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin will decide on a sentence for Hastert on April 27.