Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert committed bank fraud in order to pay hush money to a man whom he sexually abused when the victim was a 14-year-old wrestler on a team Hastert coached, federal prosecutors said in a court filing late Friday.
Hastert, a Republican who served as Speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007, was accused last year of illegally structuring cash withdrawals of nearly $1.7 million (out of a promised total of $3.5 million) in an attempt to cover up past misconduct against an unnamed man — and of lying to the F.B.I. about doing so.
Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty to the banking violation in October and is scheduled to be sentenced April 27, But the Friday filing is the first time that prosecutors said publicly that the former speaker paid the hush money in order to cover up accusations of sexual abuse. It is also the first time prosecutors provided details about the alleged abuse.
Prosecutors allege that Hastert molested at least four boys while he was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in the Chicago suburb of Yorkville, where he worked from 1965 to 1981. According to the filing, the abuse consisted of “intentional touching of minors’ groin area and genitals or oral sex with a minor.”
“The actions at the core of this case took place not on the defendant’s national public stage but in his private one-on-one encounters in an empty locker room and a motel room with minors that violated the special trust between those young boys and their coach,” the filing says.
The man whom Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million — referred to in court papers only as “Individual A” — said the former speaker molested him in a room at a motel where they and several others boys were staying during a trip to a wrestling camp.
The court document also refers to a fifth man, another former member of Yorkville wrestling team, who said that during a post-practice massage, Hastert brushed against his genitals. He was unsure whether Hastert did so on purpose, but said that the incident was “very weird” and made him feel uncomfortable.
Prosecutors said that Hastert cannot be charged for the alleged sexual abuse due to the statutes of limitation, but they recommended in the Friday filing that the federal judge who will decide Hastert’s sentence give him six months in prison for the charges related to the bank withdrawals.