Nearly 13 months after checking in to a federal prison in Minnesota, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has returned to Chicago under supervision to complete the remaining month of his sentence for breaking banking laws to hide his sexual abuse of teenage boys.
Hastert was listed this morning as entering a residential re-entry management field office in Chicago, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.
Hastert, 75, originally reported to the Federal Medical Center in Rochester on June 22, 2016 – one year after his explosive indictment surrounding secret hush-money payments sparked the local coaching legend’s epic downfall.
Hastert’s official release date is Aug. 16, and it’s unclear if he’ll serve the remainder of his term on home confinement or at a local halfway house.
Federal prosecutors began to build a case against Hastert in December 2014 after a Yorkville bank noticed Hastert making suspicious withdrawals.
Hastert’s federal indictment was made public in May 2015, revealing the allegations of sexual assault. lAccording to standard federal sentencing guidelines, he had to serve 85 percent of his 15-month sentence, followed by two years’ supervised release and sex-offender treatment.
At his April 2016 sentencing, in rejecting Hastert’s plea for probation, U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin called the former GOP powerhouse a “serial child molester” and forced him to admit he abused male students before he entered politics when he was a Yorkville High School coach.
Hastert did not face sex-related charges because prosecutors said the statute of limitations had long expired. He instead admitted to committing a financial crime — withdrawing more than $950,000 from banks in a way that would avoid detection, in an effort to keep a victim quiet.
“What I did was wrong, and I regret it,” Hastert said at sentencing of his former student athletes. “They looked to me, and I took advantage of them.”
The Rochester prison where Hastert had been housed is affiliated with the nearby Mayo Clinic, with doctors and nurses on site providing high-level medical services to the approximately 700 male inmates assigned there who need long-term physical and mental health care.
The case began to unfold four years ago after a Yorkville bank noticed the suspicious withdrawals. In December 2014, FBI agents confronted Hastert in his Plano home. He told them he was trying to keep his money safe, but his attorney later alleged Hastert was a victim of a $3.5 million extortion plot.
Hastert claimed that Individual A, a former Yorkville standout wrestler, had falsely accused him of sexual abuse decades ago when he was a coach. At the request of authorities, Hastert secretly recorded two calls to Individual A to catch him making threats, but agents soon realized it was Hastert who was lying.
Agents then questioned Individual A, who told them Hastert touched him when he was a child in a motel room on a wrestling trip. At least four other students involved in the wrestling program, including an equipment manager who is deceased, alleged at some point their coach sexually abused them in the 1960s and 1970s. Hastert was indicted May 28, 2015. But authorities refused to acknowledge the motive behind the hush-money payments. Tribune reporters spent several months contacting scores of former wrestlers and students, filing two dozen open-records requests in an effort to undercover the truth.
The Tribune’s 2016 investigation eventually uncovered child sexual abuse allegations involving at least four of the victims. One of them was Scott Cross, a brother of former Illinois House GOP leader Tom Cross. Scott Cross told the Tribune he was victimized in the fall of 1979 when he was wrestling captain. Cross asked the Tribune to keep his identity confidential until he spoke out publicly. The Tribune honored his wishes until he appeared at the sentencing hearing and confronted his former coach while delivering an emotional statement.
Tribune reporters also uncovered the identity of Individual A in winter 2016. He has repeatedly declined comment, but his wife acknowledged her husband is a victim. He has since sued Hastert in a Kendall County breach-of-contract lawsuit seeking the remaining $1.8 million — plus accrued interest — he argues Hastert owes him. The civil case is due back in court next month, and a second accuser more recently filed suit as well.