Dennis Hastert's lawyer today said the former speaker of the House acknowledges that "as a young man he committed transgressions," and said he apologizes, one day after federal prosecutors revealed disturbing new details about sexual abuse he allegedly committed decades ago.
The 26-page filing released late Friday accuses the man who was once second in line for the presidency of a series of sexual encounters with four minors when Hastert was a high school wrestling coach in Illinois in the late 1960s and 1970s, and then of trying to lie about it when confronted by the FBI.
"Mr. Hastert acknowledges that as a young man he committed transgressions for which he is profoundly sorry. He earnestly apologizes to his former students, family, friends, previous constituents and all others affected by the harm his actions have caused," Hastert attorney Thomas Green said in a statement released today.
"As stated in our sentencing memorandum, we note that for the last four decades he has made every effort to be a positive force in the lives of others," Green said. "We also advised the Court that the profound humiliation and public shaming Mr. Hastert has and will continue to experience, coupled with the resulting isolation and abandonment he has endured, are already significant punishment and have undoubtedly contributed to his fragile medical condition. He accepts responsibility for his conduct, seeks no special consideration, and is prepared to receive the Court’s sentence."
Federal prosecutors, in detailing the allegations publicly for the first time, accused Hastert of “stunning hypocrisy,” noting that he had built his early political career largely on the foundation of his work as a teacher, coach and mentor to his students.
Of his alleged victims, the prosecutors wrote that Hastert “made them feel alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity. While defendant achieved great success, reaping all the benefits that went with it, these boys struggled, and all are still struggling now with what defendant did to them."
Hastert's alleged decades-old misconduct stayed secret for years, until 2010 when prosecutors say Individual A confronted Hastert and asked him why he had done it.
"After a long pause, defendant [Hastert] said that it was a confusing and difficult time in his life," the filing alleges.
The two eventually came to an agreement in which Hastert would pay Individual A $3.5 million, but everything began to unravel after federal authorities started asking questions about Hastert's bank withdrawals. After initially claiming that he was just trying to avoid the hassles of answering questions from the bank, Hastert's attorneys contacted the FBI and claimed he was being extorted by a former student over a false claim of sexual misconduct.
Hastert then agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation, including secretly recording two conversations with his former student, with the FBI listening in.
But when the FBI heard those conversations, agents began to doubt Hastert’s story, and eventually came to believe that it was Hastert who was lying, not his former student.
"Individual A’s tone and comments during the recorded conversation were inconsistent with someone committing extortion,” according to the prosecutors' filing Friday. "Instead of objecting to defendant’s request, for example, Individual A expressed understanding for defendant’s supposed need for more time to come up with the money. Individual A did not make any threats, implicit or explicit, nor did he seem angry that defendant was asking for more time to get the money.”
Hastert pleaded guilty in December to a financial crime involving the purported hush money payments.
He technically faces a maximum penalty of five years, but according to the terms of his plea deal, prosecutors recommended he serve no more than six months. His defense team wants probation. Prosecutors are also asking the judge to require Hastert to under sex offender evaluation, and to comply with any recommended treatment.
"The federal and state statutes of limitations have long expired on potential charges relating to defendant’s known sexual acts against Individual A and other minors," the prosecution said in today's filing. "These known acts consist of the defendant’s intentional touching of minors’ groin area and genitals or oral sex with a minor. With this case, the government seeks to hold defendant accountable for the crimes he committed that can still be prosecuted: defendant’s structuring of cash withdrawals and his lies to the government about that activity. But those crimes, while recent, have their origin in the defendant’s past."