After serving 13 months of his 15 month sentence, he has been released from the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, MN, and will spend his remaining time in a Chicago halfway house. The Illinois native is now under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Residential Reentry Management Office, which is tasked with helping prisoners adjust to re-entry into society.
The 75 year-old Hastert admitted in court in 2015 to molesting multiple teenage boys on the Yorkville High School wrestling team, where he coached from 1965 to 1981. He pled guilty to withdrawing hush money to the tune of $952,000 from his accounts at four separate banks in increments small enough to avoid federal reporting requirements. This was part of an effort to keep his actions quiet by paying off someone identified as “Individual A” in court records.
Hastert served in Congress from 1987 to 2007, including being Speaker from 1999 to 2007. His Speakership covered the attacks of 9/11, the start of the War on Terror, and the Iraq War. But he eradicated all that with the horrifying revelations of raping at least 4 teenage boys as young as 14 years old, according to federal prosecutors. The actual number of victims is unknown.
Federal District Judge Thomas Durkin said it well at the 2015 sentencing:
“Some actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works,” the judge said at the time. “Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘Speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.”
Unfortunately, the statute of limitations expired long ago for the child molestation charges, so he could not receive the punishment he deserved. He could only be prosecuted for his banking violations. In addition to the 15 month sentence, he was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine and receive mental health treatment as a sex offender. One of the victims called it “a slap on the wrist”, which of course it was. Rather than the pedophilia, he was convicted of the following:
According to the plea deal, Mr. Hastert paid Individual A roughly $1.7 million between 2010 and 2014. For the first two years of that arrangement he gave his former victim $50,000 roughly every six weeks, but then began structuring his payments to evade detection after bank officials questioned him in April 2012.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation also questioned Mr. Hastert about his bank withdrawals in December 2014. In the plea deal, he admitted that he “intentionally concealed from the agents that he withdrew the money to compensate Individual A and the reason for the agreement with Individual A.”
This was seemingly the best the federal authorities could do, due to the time elapsed since the actual molestation. So he will soon be free.
It is bad enough to have politicians betray us in broken promises and bad legislation. We are sadly all too used to that. But this was obviously far worse. This was a betrayal by a husband, father, teacher, and coach. He was entrusted with helping raise up the next generation, and he used it for the sickest of perversions. Then, he used his standing in the community to become a US Congressman and one of the leaders of the free world.
It’s scary that such a predator could rise up to become one of the most powerful people in the nation. For all the cynicism we have toward Washington D.C., we still have some basic hopes and expectations for those in office. But any such monster is a threat to our society, whether in Congress or not. Our children really are our most important asset and need to be protected. We hear liberal activists whine “What about the children!” all the time, but it’s not politicians who can do the most harm to kids. The biggest dangers can lie from the most average people. I don’t know a single Democrat who thinks Dennis Hastert harmed those boys more as a Congressman than as their coach. (Such a person could exist, but I couldn’t name him or her.) It is those closest to children who shape their lives for better or worse, not politicians. From parents to teachers to Congressmen, we all owe our obligation to guard and protect our kids, especially from actions as horrific as these.