Lawyers for Dennis Hastert said in a court filing unsealed Wednesday that the former U.S. House speaker had no recollection of alleged sexual abuse decades ago of a former Yorkville High School wrestler who is scheduled to testify about the incident at Hastert’s upcoming sentencing.
Hastert faces anywhere from probation up to five years in prison when he is sentenced April 27. He pleaded guilty to one count of illegally structuring bank withdrawals to avoid reporting requirements, admitting in a plea agreement that he’d paid $1.7 million in cash to Individual A to cover up the sexual abuse.
In a 26-page filing last week, prosecutors alleged Hastert sexually abused five students when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville. The abuse allegedly occurred in hotel rooms during team trips and in empty locker rooms, often after Hastert coaxed the teens into a compromising position by offering to massage them.
Prosecutors alleged that Hastert performed a sex act on two wrestlers at separate times and inappropriately touched two other wrestlers once each while giving them massages. The filing also alleged that Hastert set up a La-Z-Boy-type of chair outside the locker room’s showers in order to sit and watch the boys.
At issue is whether Hastert, 74 and said to be in ill health, will be sentenced to prison or placed on probation. The statute of limitations has run out on the sexual abuse allegations, so Hastert will only be charged and sentenced for lying to authorities.
In their filing last week asking for up to six months in prison for Hastert, prosecutors said he lied in a February 2015 proffer session that Individual A was extorting him for $3.5 million over false claims of sexual abuse when Hastert was the coach of the school’s wrestling team.
“That’s not conduct that’s 40 years old. That’s conduct that’s a year old,” U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin said at a hearing Wednesday. “Among the aggravating factors in this case, that’s a big one.”
It was revealed that FBI agents wore hidden recorders and secretly recorded Hastert when he was first questioned in December 2014 about hundreds of thousands of dollars in unusual bank withdrawals he’d recently made.
According to the filing, Hastert told agents he “didn’t know” that bank rules required him to report any withdrawals over $10,000 to regulators.
“I exposed myself to a crime that I didn’t know I was involved in,” Hastert was quoted in the filing as saying. He also told agents he was keeping the cash in a “safe place,” the filing said.
Also Wednesday, prosecutors said they believe another former wrestler of Hastert’s — identified only as Individual D — will testify under oath at the sentencing. Individual D told authorities that Hastert performed a sexual act on him in the school locker room when he was 17.
Jolene Burdge, the sister of a third alleged victim, is also expected to tell the court how her now-deceased brother had told her Hastert had sexually abused him throughout high school, prosecutors said. He was equipment manager for the wrestling team.
Hastert served as Speaker of the House from 1997 to 2007. “He is an evangelical Christian and as speaker opposed abortion, advocated for the death penalty and demonized gays as predators.