Dennis Hastert’s $3.5 million secret is out.
The man who was once second in line to the presidency sexually abused five students while a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School decades ago, according to a new court filing by federal prosecutors.
A sentencing memorandum filed late Friday finally ripped back the curtain on damning sexual abuse claims at the heart of an indictment leveled against Hastert last May — claims that haunted the former U.S. House Speaker enough that he paid a fortune to hide them from the world.
Claims that he performed sex acts on teenage boys in a motel room and locker room.
The hush money didn’t work. Neither did allegations in February 2015 that he was a victim of extortion by one of his past victims. Now prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence Hastert to no more than six months in prison at a hearing April 27, acknowledging five minors were victims of Hastert’s alleged abuse in a 26-page sentencing memo.
“He made them feel alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block wrote. “While defendant achieved great success, reaping all the benefits that went with it, these boys struggled, and all are still struggling now with what defendant did to them.”
Hastert’s sentencing day will be the worst of his life, his lawyers have acknowledged. They have asked for probation for the ailing, once-beloved 74-year-old pariah in an apologetic plea for mercy filed Wednesday. Hastert has pleaded guilty only to a financial crime.
But Block said Hastert’s “history and characteristics are marred by stunning hypocrisy.” After the feds first approached him in December 2014 about suspicious bank withdrawals, prosecutors say Hastert’s lawyers called investigators and claimed he was the victim of an extortion plot involving a “false claim.” Hastert later agreed to secretly record conversations with Individual A, whose identity has not been publicly revealed.
The feds said they first heard Individual A’s voice when he was secretly recorded by Hastert in a phone call on March 2, 2015. The two were discussing a meeting where Individual A could collect a $100,000 payment. But Individual A made no threats and did not seem angry when Hastert asked for more time to get the money.
During a second secretly recorded phone conversation on March 22, 2015, the feds told Hastert to accuse Individual A of making a false claim, but Hastert failed to do so. So agents approached Individual A on March 27, 2015. That’s when the feds say Individual A claimed Hastert molested him in a motel room at a wrestling camp when he was 14.
The feds say Individual A confronted Hastert in 2010, asking him how many other kids Hastert had molested. Hastert allegedly said, “there were only two.” Hastert ultimately agreed to pay $3.5 million in hush money to keep the sexual abuse allegations a secret. Individual A collected $1.7 million of it.
Prosecutors go into graphic detail in the memo about the sexual abuse not only of Individual A, but also of Individuals B, C and D as well as the late Yorkville High School wrestling team manager Stephen Reinboldt. Reinboldt’s sister claims her brother was a victim of Hastert’s abuse, and prosecutors agreed, writing: “Reinboldt was a victim and defendant was his abuser.”
Individual D recalled Hastert pulling a La-Z-Boy style chair “in direct view of the shower stalls in the locker room where he sat while the boys showered.” Individuals B and D claim Hastert performed sex acts on them when they were 14 and 17, respectively. Individual C claims Hastert “brushed his hand against Individual C’s genitals.”
“In October 1979, in the midst of high school wrestling season, defendant chose to pursue a public life in politics,” Block wrote in the memo. “Defendant’s sexual abuse of boys on his team occurred before this decision and was still occurring at the time defendant chose to enter public life.”
Block’s sentencing memo is the first acknowledgement by prosecutors of the sexual abuse. The case has been shrouded in mystery from the start, and U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin has even recently held hearings in the case without notice to the public.
The sexual abuse allegations were quickly leaked to the public last year, but Block said in his memo that such leaks are “destructive of the criminal justice process itself.”
Meanwhile, Hastert has yet to publicly acknowledge the sexual abuse allegations — he even filed a motion Friday that suggested he is still not ready to do so.
But Block put it plainly: Hastert “used his position of trust as a teacher and coach to touch a child’s genitals and then undress and ask the child for a back massage in a motel room.
“There is no ambiguity; defendant sexually abused Individual A.”