In a sentencing hearing Wednesday morning, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert acknowledged having sexually abused several boys while he was their wrestling coach in the 1970s. The judge described him as “a serial child molester,” then sentenced him to two years of supervised release. Later in the hearing, he added 15 months in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty in October to bank fraud and lying to the FBI about $3.5 million he agreed to pay to someone referred to at the time as “Individual A.” It soon emerged that Individual A is one of at least four people Hastert is accused of sexually abusing when they were teenagers on his wrestling team.

One of those men, Scott Cross, testified in court for the first time today; he is the brother of former House Republican Leader Tom Cross, one of Hastert’s longtime allies and proteges. Hastert, it emerged at the sentencing hearing, had the audacity to ask Tom Cross to write a letter on his behalf, attesting to his good moral character. (More than 40 people wrote letters on Hastert’s behalf, including former Congressman Tom DeLay).

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Scott Cross testified that he was 17 when Hastert sexually abused him, and that he was “devastated” by it. From the Washington Post:

Cross said he “did not say anything to anyone.”

“As a 17-year-old boy, I was devastated,” he said. “I tried to figure out why Coach Hastert had singled me out.”

Cross, whose brother is a former Illinois legislator and who himself works in financial services, said he felt “pain, shame and guilt” for years — confiding what had happened to his brother and wife only after the criminal case against Hastert emerged.

He said he had trouble sleeping and working, but came forward because he wanted the judge to know what happened, and he wanted his children to know “there’s an alternative to staying silent.”

“I wanted you to know the pain and suffering he caused me then, and still causes me today,” Cross said.

Hastert told the court he’s “deeply ashamed” by all the sexual molestation he perpetrated, though he didn’t quite phrase it in those terms:

Hastert also called what he did “misconduct.”

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According to the AP, Judge Thomas M. Durkin called Hastert a “serial child molester.” Hastert is also going to be required to undergo sex offender treatment.

Update, 12:55 p.m.:

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Durkin clarified that he’s unable to sentence Hastert to jail time for child molestation, because of the statute of limitations, but sentenced him to 15 months in prison on the other charges.

In a lengthy sentencing statement, Durking said Hastert, who suffered a stroke some months ago and arrived in court in a wheelchair, is “unquestionably a sick, frail man,” but said his age shouldn’t be a deterrent from getting the sentence he deserved for his crimes.

Durkin said that Hastert will be allowed to self-surrender instead of being taken into custody immediately.

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This is a breaking news post and will be updated.


Image via AP