|Hastert arriving for his sentencing heaering (Tribune Photo)|
Judge Durkin said the sentence of probation to no more than six months recommended by federal prosecutors was inappropriate and insufficient for a man he repeatedly described as a "serial child molester." Judge Durkin noted that nothing was more stunning than uttering the words "serial child molester" and "Speaker of the House" in the same sentence. Judge Durkin was highly critical of Hastert for lying to FBI agents and falsely accusing one of his victims of extortion. "What rational person takes out $1.7 million in cash from a bank?" he rhetorically asked regarding a $3.5 million cash payment Hastert agreed to pay to silence one of his victims. Durkin reminded Hastert of his role in enacting the very law that ensnared him in these criminal proceedings. Durkin noted with disgust that Hastert had actually contacted Cross' brother, Tom, and sought support for his sentencing hearing knowing that his brother was one of his victims. Interestingly, Judge Durkin's brother, Jim Durkin, succeeded Tom Cross as Illinois House Republican Leader when Cross gave up that job to run for State Treasurer.
Hastert sat in a wheelchair and stared at Judge Durkin as he harshly criticized his conduct. "The obvious reason for your lies isn't lost on me," Durkin said. "If you didn't lie, you would have never been Speaker of the House. Durkin said he believed Cross and he believed, Jolene Burdge, whose late brother, Stephen Reinboldt, had told her about years of sexual abuse he had suffered at Hastert's hands while he worked as team manager for Hastert's high school wrestling team. Reinboldt died of AIDS in 1995. Burdge also testified at the hearing. "You took his life, Mr. Hastert," Burdge said. "Not because he died of AIDS but because you took his innocence and used it against him." "Don't be a coward, Mr. Hastert. Tell the truth." Only with prodding by the judge did Hastert admit he had sexually abused boys, including Cross and Reinboldt.
Despite his age (74) and health, Durkin thought his crime required real prison time, noting that Hastert wasn't "infirm" or "unaware of what's going on." Judge Durkin said Hastert would complete his sentence at a prison facility in Rochester where many other child abusers are imprisoned and where he would have access to adequate health care for his ongoing health issues. He will be required to undergo ongoing, supervised counseling following the completion of his sentence. Hastert will become the highest-ranking federal government official to be sent to prison in the history of this country. Former Vice President Spiro Agnew received only probation for tax evasion and bribery charges to which he pleaded guilty from the time he served as Maryland governor prior to becoming vice president.
|Scott Cross (1980 High School Photo)|
|Scott Cross (left) in 1999 at a Hastert campaign event (Tribune Photo)|
“With this case, the Office sought to hold Mr. Hastert accountable for the crimes he committed that could still be prosecuted: illegally structuring cash withdrawals and lying to the government about his motive for engaging in that activity. All of us have been inspired by the strength and bravery of the victims and witnesses who came forward in the most challenging of circumstances. As in all cases, the Office is dedicated to doing everything we can to help victims and their families seek justice. It is our hope that the sentence imposed today will promote respect for the law.”I just realized that Scott Cross was a student at Eastern Illinois University the same time I attended college there. He was one year ahead of me.