Dennis Hastert, the former U.S. House Speaker who broke the law while trying to hide his past sexual abuse of teenage boys, quietly left a Minnesota prison this week after 13 months behind bars.
And while even the judge who sentenced Hastert warned the former speaker’s prison time would “pale in comparison” to what he could have faced if prosecuted for a sex crime, the 75-year-old must now return to a world that regards him as a pariah nearly two decades after he served within two heartbeats of the Oval Office.
His legal troubles aren’t over, either, as he still faces two lawsuits related to the lurid allegations against him.
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Hastert left the Rochester Federal Medical Center in southeast Minnesota on Monday, officials said. He did so after serving roughly 85 percent of a 15-month sentence for illegally structuring bank transactions while trying to cover up his dark past. He is now under the supervision of a residential re-entry management field office in Chicago, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
That means Hastert is likely at a halfway house in the region monitored by that office, or he is on home confinement. Prison officials declined to say, and Hastert’s attorney chose not to comment Tuesday. Hastert’s official release date from the federal prison system is set for Aug. 16.
Scott Cross, one of Hastert’s victims, told CNN’s Jake Tapper it was “troubling” to learn of Hastert’s early release from prison.
“But there was nothing I could do about that,” Cross said, “I’m just trying to move on.”
In addition to the prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin ordered Hastert to spend two years on supervised release, giving the former speaker three days following his release from the prison system to report to a probation office.
During his supervised release, Hastert is forbidden from contacting his victims. “If they want to reach out to him, that’s their prerogative,” Durkin said, “but he should never contact them himself.”
The judge also ordered Hastert to participate in a sex offender treatment program.
Though sexual abuse allegations were central to Hastert’s prosecution, authorities could not pursue them because the statutes of limitations had long run out. Instead, the feds hit Hastert in May 2015 with a blockbuster indictment that accused him of illegally structuring bank withdrawals and lying to the FBI.
Hastert pleaded guilty to the structuring and acknowledged the lying in October 2015. During his sentencing hearing in April 2016, he admitted to the judge that he sexually abused children in the 1970s while he was a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. When he handed down the sentence, Durkin called Hastert a “serial child molester.”
Hastert chose not to appeal his sentence and reported quietly on June 22, 2016, to the Minnesota prison for inmates who require medical care. He spent more than a year in a facility populated with killers like Jared Lee Loughner, who shot former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and a “significant percentage” of sex offenders, according to Durkin.
At the center of Hastert’s indictment was a man known publicly only as Individual A, who says he was molested in a motel room by Hastert when he was 14 and cut a $3.5 million hush-money deal with Hastert in 2010. Hastert paid Individual A only $1.7 million, and Individual A has sued Hastert for the remaining balance.
Hastert later filed a counterclaim seeking repayment of the $1.7 million.
The withdrawals Hastert made while paying Individual A prompted questions from bank officials, but Hastert lied and claimed he was using the money to buy stocks and antique cars. He later told authorities he was the victim of an extortion plot, helping the feds secretly record two phone conversations with Individual A in March 2015.
Authorities began to doubt Hastert’s claim and confronted Individual A. That’s when Hastert’s dark secrets began to spill out.
The feds discovered other victims of Hastert’s abuse. Cross, the brother of former state House GOP leader Tom Cross, revealed himself to be a Hastert victim during Hastert’s sentencing hearing. Hastert has also admitted he sexually abused late Yorkville High School wrestling team manager Stephen Reinboldt.
Meanwhile, a new accuser filed a lawsuit in May alleging Hastert sodomized him in a bathroom stall in the early 1970s.