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Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert departs the federal courthouse in Chicago April 27 after his sentencing on federal banking charges. Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison in the hush-money case that included accusations he sexually abused teenagers while coaching high school wrestling. | AP file photo.

Editorial: Dennis Hastert and child sexual abuse

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It is way too late for Dennis Hastert to salvage his reputation. He is a disgraced criminal. But he’s still clinging to his money, seeking $1.7 million in hush money he paid to a victim he sexually abused four decades ago.

Once one of the country’s most powerful men, the former U.S. House Speaker isserving a 15-month sentence for violating banking rules to cover up the motive behindwithdrawals totaling nearly $1 million.

Hastert, 75, is within his rights to seek the money, as disturbingas that sounds. Last week, his lawyer filed a counterclaim for the money and asked a Kendall County judge to throw out the breach of contract suit the victim brought against Hastert.

But in filing his claim, Hastert reminds us that he got away lightly.

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For the banking violations, Hastert could have been sentenced to as many as five years. The statute of limitations had expired on sexual abuse charges. Otherwise, he would have faced decades in prison. It is alleged that Hastert sexually abused nine boys during his time as a celebrated wrestling coach at Yorkville High School.

The unnamed victim, known as Individual A in the federal case against Hastert, is suing for the remaining $1.8 million of the $3.5 million he says Hastert agreed to pay him for “pain, suffering and harm caused by Hastert.” The man alleges Hastert abused him when he was 14.

Through his lawyer, Hastert denies a “valid and enforceable contract” existed. If a contract existed, then Individual A “breached” it by breaking a confidentiality agreement.

Hastert will be a bully until the end.

His prison sentence is a blip compared with the trauma his victims suffered.

At Hastert’s sentencing hearing, the federal judge called Hastert a “serial child molester.” Even then, Hastert didn’t want to own his past. “I know I’m here because I mistreated some of my athletes,” he said, as if he were being sentenced for yelling at a student. In another instance, his lawyer referred to “misconduct” by Hastert.

When initially questioned about suspicious bank withdrawals by authorities, Hastert lied and said he was the victim. He said Individual A was extorting him. He was OK with inflicting more damage on his victim.

In August, Dennis Hastert will regain his freedom. His victims will carry emotional scars forever.

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