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Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Admits To Sexual Abuse

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse on Wednesday in Chicago for his sentencing.
Charles Rex Arbogast
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse on Wednesday in Chicago for his sentencing.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert admitted at his sentencing hearing Wednesday that he sexually abused more than one student when he was a teacher and wrestling coach in Illinois decades ago, and said he was "ashamed."

Hastert initially said he had "mistreated" athletes, NPR's David Schaper tweeted from the courtroom. He added: "What I did was wrong and I regret it."

Hastert, 74, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in the case involving hush money that prosecutors say was used to cover up alleged sexual abuse of a minor. In addition, according to The Associated Press, the sentence calls for "sex offender treatment, two years of supervised release after his time behind bars and a $250,000 fine that will go to a crime victims fund."

The longest-serving Republican speaker in U.S. history had faced up to five years in prison for the financial crimes.

In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin called Hastert a "serial child molester," according to multiple reporters in the courtroom. The former House speaker has been accused of abusing at least five teenage boys but hasn't been charged because the statute of limitations has expired.

Hastert pleaded guilty in October to illegally structuring bank withdrawals to evade reporting rules for large transactions. That money was used to conceal alleged sexual misconduct — given to a man who says Hastert abused him when he was 14.

The alleged victim, identified in court documents as "Individual A," is suing Hastert for not paying the full amount agreed upon between the two. He says Hastert paid $1.7 million out of $3.5 million in "compensation."

As The Two-Way has reported:

"The [plea] deal states that Hastert 'agreed to provide Individual A $3,500,000 in order to compensate for and keep confidential his prior misconduct against Individual A.'

"It goes on to say that from July of 2012 to December 2014, Hastert withdrew $952,000 in amounts below $10,000 to 'evade currency transaction reporting requirements' on more than 100 occasions."

During today's hearing, another alleged victim, previously identified only as "Individual D," came forward to make a statement before sentencing. Reporters tweeting from the courtroom said he is Scott Cross. The 53-year-old's brother is former longtime Illinois House Rep. Tom Cross, who has considered Hastert a political mentor, David reports.

"As a 17-year-old boy I was devastated. I tried to figure out why Coach Hastert had singled me out. I felt terribly alone," Scott Cross testified, according to NBC News. "Today I understand I did nothing to bring this on, but at age 17, I could not understand what happened or why."

When the judge asked Hastert directly if he had sexually abused Cross, "Hastert said he could not remember, but he did acknowledge [Cross'] statement," David reports. "Asked if he molested others, Hastert quietly said, 'Yes.' "

Jolene Burdge, who also spoke Wednesday, says Hastert abused her brother, who died in 1995. Burdge said Hastert took away Stephen Reibolt's "right to develop his sexual identity in a normal, healthy way," a CBS News reporter tweeted.

Hastert served as House speaker from 1999 to 2007, and was a high school teacher and wresting coach in Yorkville, Ill., in the 1960s and '70s. According to court documents, it was during this time that the alleged sexual abuse took place.

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Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.