Forty years after abuse, Dennis Hastert due in prison Wednesday

SHARE Forty years after abuse, Dennis Hastert due in prison Wednesday
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Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert departs the federal courthouse Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Chicago, after his sentencing on federal banking charges which he pled guilty to last year. (AP File Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Dennis Hastert admits he sexually abused teenage boys back in the 1970s.

Roughly 40 years later, he is finally due to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The man who rose from wrestling coach and hometown hero to speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and second in line to the presidency must now report to the Rochester Federal Medical Center in southeast Minnesota by 2 p.m. Wednesday.

That’s when Hastert, 74, is due to begin serving the 15-month prison sentence handed down in April by U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin, who called Hastert a “serial child molester.”

Durkin sentenced Hastert for a financial crime Hastert committed while trying to cover up dark secrets from his days as a coach at Yorkville High School.Durkin noted the statute of limitations for the accusations of child molestation against Hastert “ran out many years ago.”

Now, the man who was once two heartbeats from the Oval Office will be forced to adjust to life in a facility where inmates are expected to make their beds by 7:30 a.m., carry their own plastic chairs to the TV room, and submit to regular headcounts and contraband searches — including “a thorough personal search” if necessary.

It is also a facility where “a significant percentage of the prisoners” are sex offenders, Durkin noted at the sentencing hearing. The judge said Hastert won’t be singled out there, because he will “be joining others who have similar backgrounds.”

Rochester is also home to Jared Lee Loughner, who fatally shot six people and injured 13, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in 2011 in Tucson, Ariz.

Hastert’s inmate number with the Bureau of Prisons is 47991-424.

Read more about Dennis Hastert and the federal investigation

All inmates sentenced to Rochester are expected to work if they are able. But Hastert enters prison in poor health. His lawyers say he “nearly died” in the days after his guilty plea to the crime of structuring last October. They say he fell at home, has suffered from a stroke and a rare bloodstream infection and underwent spinal surgery.

He appeared for his sentencing hearing in a wheelchair, and his lawyers say he needs help with all of the major activities of daily life except for eating.

Durkin has acknowledged that “but for the age and, more importantly, the genuine health issues of the defendant,” Hastert’s sentence would have been “significantly greater.” The judge said he was “satisfied” that Hastert’s health needs would be met at the prison — but he acknowledged a prison hospital is “not Northwestern Memorial Hospital.”

“It’s not even Copley Hospital where the defendant was treated,” Durkin said in April. “It’s still a jail, and the amenities of a private hospital are not there.”

The judge also addressed concerns that fellow inmates would be involved in Hastert’s care, explaining the Rochester warden promised the prison will “carefully screen and train these companion inmates.”

With credit for good behavior, Hastert could be out of prison in just under 13 months. Historians have struggled to name another former House speaker who faced such a fate.

Hastert’s lawyer has said he will not appeal his conviction or the sentence.

Hastert pleaded guilty toillegally structuring$952,000 in bank withdrawals to avoid raising red flags. But he also acknowledged he lied to the FBI, and he did so to avoid being exposed as a child molester. Hastert admitted he sexually abused students decades ago, and the judge said “some conduct is unforgivable no matter how old it is.”

“The abuse was 40 years ago, but the damage lasts today,” Durkin said during Hastert’s sentencing hearing, which included testimony from one of Hastert’s victims and the sister of another.

Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million in hush money to a man known publicly only as “Individual A” who was sexually abused by Hastert in a motel room when he was 14. Hastert paid only $1.7 million, and “Individual A” has sued Hastert for the remaining $1.8 million.

When the bank first questioned Hastert about suspicious withdrawals, Hastert lied and claimed he was using the money to buy stock and antique cars. He later told authorities he was the victim of an extortion plot by “Individual A.” He helped the feds secretly record two phone conversations with “Individual A” in March 2015.

Authorities began to doubt the claim and confronted “Individual A.” That’s when Hastert’s dark secrets began to spill out.

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