The Slatest

Former House Speaker Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison After Admitting He Sexually Abused Students 

Former House speaker Dennis Hastert arrives to federal court in Chicago for his sentencing appearance.

Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Former House speaker Dennis Hastert has been sentenced to 15 months in prison after admitting in court Wednesday that he sexually abused at least two students when he was a teacher and wrestling coach at an Illinois high school. Hastert had previously pleaded guilty to circumventing financial laws in the course of making secret payments to one of his multiple known victims; he was not charged directly with sexual abuse because of statute-of-limitations rules.

Hastert taught at a high school in Yorkville, Illinois, until 1981.

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Federal guidelines recommend up to six months in prison for the crimes that Hastert pleaded guilty to but leave the ultimate responsibility for determining a sentence up to the judge. The judge in Hastert’s case, Thomas Durkin, called Hastert a “serial child molester” during sentencing and asked him directly whether he had sexually abused certain individuals. Before being pressed by Durkin, Hastert had admitted Wednesday in court only that he had “mistreated” the individuals involved. From the Washington Post’s description of Judge Durkin’s questions:

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Of Scott Cross, a victim who spoke in court earlier in the day, he said: “I don’t remember doing that, but I accept his statement.”

He acknowledged abusing another victim, but hemmed and hawed about Steven Reinboldt, whose sister has shared his story publicly. “It’s a different situation, sir,” Hastert said, before ultimately agreeing that he had sexually abused Reinboldt.

Hastert served in Congress for 20 years and as speaker of the House from 1999 until 2007. Hastert voted to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and took over as speaker from Newt Gingrich when Gingrich’s presumed successor, Bob Livingston, resigned because Hustler was preparing an exposé about Livingston’s extramarital affairs. (Gingrich, at the time, was also having an affair.)

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