With help of Hastert victim, sex-abuse bill on way to becoming law

Seated next to Scott Cross, a survivor of abuse by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan testifies before members of the Illinois Senate and calls for legislation that eliminates the statutes of limitations for felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against children last year. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/For the Sun-Times

With disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert cited as an example and one of his victims as a champion for change — a measure to eliminate statutes of limitations for all child sex abuse crimes cleared the Illinois House on Thursday and heads to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk, where the governor vowed to sign it.

The bill was pushed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who testified before a Senate committee alongside Scott Cross, who was one of the boys Hastert sexually abused when Hastert coached wrestling at Yorkville High School in the 1960s and 1970s. Cross, the brother of former state House Republican Leader Tom Cross, broke his silence about the abuse at Hastert’s sentencing hearing last year.

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. (AP File Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

While accused of abusing five boys, Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison only for financial crimes tied to payouts he made to an abuse victim. At his sentencing hearing last year, Hastert admitted to sexually abusing the boys and was labelled a  ‘serial child molester’ by the judge.

But the man who was once second in line to the presidency couldn’t be prosecuted for sexual abuse because the statute of limitation for those crimes had passed a decade earlier.

“Dennis Hastert inflicted unbelievable pain on the lives of the youth he was entrusted to care for, yet he got a slap on the wrist,” Scott Cross said at a March Senate committee hearing, noting “the laws in Illinois — and across the country — have to change.”

1980 Yorkville High School yearbook photo of senior Scott Cross.

The bill, which unanimously cleared the state Senate in March and the House on Thursday, now heads to the governor’s desk. Rauner administration officials on Thursday said the governor will sign the measure.

The bill eliminates Illinois’ statutes of limitations that can allow child predators to go unpunished. It includes all felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against children.

There are currently no statutes of limitations in Illinois for murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, arson, treason, forgery, or the production of child pornography.

Under current law, the most serious sexual offenses against children must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the survivor turning 18. There were two exceptions in which physical evidence proved the abuse, and another in which a mandated reporter didn’t report the abuse.


More from the Chicago Sun-Times