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April 27, 2016

Former House speaker gets black hole of federal prison for 15 months after sentencing supernova

In this post yesterday, I explained why I called today's sentencing of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert a sentencing supernova. Today, this ABC News piece reports on the sentencing events and outcome in federal court this morning:

Former Speaker of the House John Dennis Hastert was sentenced today in federal court to 15 months in prison and two years of supervised release after he faced one of his accusers, who identified himself publicly for the first time as Scott Cross, a former Yorkville High School wrestling student.

Cross, who was until now identified in court documents only as “Individual D,” took the stand and introduced himself as a father, husband and businessman. Cross described his abuse by Hastert as “his darkest secret as he [Hastert] became more powerful.”

Hastert has also been required to comply with a sex offender treatment program. The sentence follows an almost year-long hush money case hinging on payments Hastert made to a student he allegedly sexually abused while acting as a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in Illinois.

Cross said Hastert had "offered massages" to him in order to help him lose weight. He went on to describe a one-time incident when he was 17, saying Hastert "grabbed my penis and began to rub me. Stunned, I pulled up my shorts and ran out of the locker room.” Cross said he decided to testify after Hastert and his defense team reached out to his brother, Illinois politician Tom Cross, for a letter of support. Tom Cross served in the Illinois House of Representatives for 22 years. Scott Cross was on the varsity wrestling team at Yorkville High School when Hastert was a coach in the 1970s.

Using a walker, Hastert approached the judge. “I am deeply ashamed to be standing here today,” he said. “I know I am here because I mistreated some of my athletes that I coached. ... I want to apologize to the boys I mistreated. I was wrong and I accept that.” Judge Durkin referred to Hastert as a "serial child molester" while delivering the sentence.

The man formerly second in line for the presidency was wheeled into court this morning by attendants. In a January court filing, Hastert’s lawyers revealed that the former speaker’s health had rapidly declined following a stroke and a blood infection, and that he now needed “assistance for most daily activities.” Hastert technically faced a maximum penalty of five years.

Dozens of Hastert’s supporters have written letters to the judge asking for mercy, including former Republican Congressional leader Tom Delay, who called Hastert “a man of integrity. He loves and respects his fellow man.” CIA Director Porter Goss called Hastert “a rock solid guy with center-of-the country values.”

Hastert pleaded guilty in October to violating bank laws in connection with paying out hush money over the years allegedly to one of his victims, and in April his defense team made a filing publicly acknowledging the “harm” he caused to “others” for “misconduct that occurred decades ago.”

April 27, 2016 at 01:04 PM | Permalink


¿ Does “black hole” of federal prison describe the down tick of federal confinement , or does is indicate a more secure type of confinement for Mr. Hastert’s safety ?

Posted by: Docile Jim Brady „ the Nemo Me ♠ Impune Lacessit ♂ in Bend, Oregon ‼ | Apr 27, 2016 1:25:55 PM

I'm disappointed that he judge didn't order the Clerk to whack Hastert's peepee for good measure.

Posted by: Emily | Apr 27, 2016 1:53:53 PM

He needed his peepee smashed with a sledge hammer. But its good to at least see a high ranker to go away and play with the boys for a while.

Its my belief that the better the life you had, the tougher it is to go away. Especially when your his age and in his apparent health. No shed of tear from me.

I would of loved to see ex Fed judge Jack Camp get 10 yrs for his blunder and while on the bench. I would of revoked his federal pension, one is not supposed to get social security when in the slammer. He was a sloth.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 27, 2016 7:56:25 PM

The sad thing about this is probably that all of this is due to the stigma attached to being "gay" in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. I am not excusing Hastert's conduct.

But had he not been ashamed of himself, had he not repressed his feelings, he probably could have avoided the choices that led him to do what he did in the 1970s.

I don't think to this day he can accept that he was or is gay or bi, whatever it is, because he went on to live a life with a wife, kids and everything else. Looking back, I think he is disgusted with himself but he cannot admit it. Its not the criminal law's job to make him "admit" it, but if times were different, I doubt this would have happened.

On a separate note, I hate how one of the victim's sister showed up and accused Hastert of basically killing her brother. Her brother eventually contracted AIDS, many years later, and died but Hastert did not cause that. He didn't cause her brother to be gay. He didn't give him HIV. He didn't do any of that. And the alleged abuse apparently was when he was already around 15/16, near or passed the age of consent. I feel sorry for all the victims, but these weren't 7 year old kids he was picking up.

Posted by: Boom | Apr 27, 2016 8:57:54 PM


You are missing the point. Regardless of the age of consent, he was in a position of power over the kids and to use that power to advance his sexual gratification is wrong. On the merits, I would feel differently about this case if it were some kid he met at the mall. We entrust students to their teacher's care and they have a duty to act in the best interest of the child. In other words, it is the violation of the public's trust which I find most offensive. On that score his sexuality and the way he felt about sexuality is irrelevant to the analysis.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 27, 2016 9:25:21 PM

Really? A 15 month sentence for -- in the judge's own words -- a "serial child molester." Now, I recognize that Mr. Hastert wasn't being sentenced for *being* a child molester. No, instead, he paid his victims off to make sure it was kept a secret, all the while he ascended the political ladder. That's what he was being sentenced for. Honestly, he's worse then a serial child molester. He's a serial child molester who silenced his victims for so long that the SOL passed and along the way convinced people to vote for him.


Isn't being a "serial child molester" a "history and characteristic" of the defendant, which 3553(a) requires the judge consider? I guess it's outweighed by the fact he was a famous politician who is in declining health.

Here's a serious question: if there was ever a case where a conviction for violating this statute (structuring financial transaction to avoid reporting) warranted a sentence near or at the statutory maximum, isn't this it? If not, then what does that case look like?

Here's another serious question: Is Mr. Hastert really that much less culpable than Jerry Sandusky? On the magnitude of 48x less culpable? (i.e. 15 months compared to 720 months).

The only reason Mr. Hastert wasn't convicted and sentenced as a serial child molester -- like Mr. Sandusky was -- was because of his "hush money" scheme. I don't care how failing his health is. How he didn't get 4 or 5 years is beyond me. How the prosecutor didn't ask for something in the neighborhood of 4 or 5 years is beyond me.

One final serious question/thought/suggestion: Although I am no fan of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (b/c in most cases they are too harsh), how did they not take into account the connection between Mr. Hastert's offense with his serial child molestation? Does this case not exemplify a need to amend the guideline for this offense (2S1.3) to better reflect the "real" conduct? After all, isn't "real conduct" sentencing one of the major goals of the FSG's? For example, why wouldn't the guideline for this offense have some provision that reads as follows: "If the defendant was structuring financial transactions so as to avoid the detection of another felony, apply 2X1.1 in respect to that other offense." See, e.g., 2K2.1(c). Or, at a minimum, why not have a catch-all enhancement for structuring financial transactions "in connection with" another felony offense. See, e.g., 2K2.1(b)(6)(B).

Posted by: Anon | Apr 28, 2016 12:42:47 AM

When Hastert was teaching, the crime of indecent liberties with a child in Illinois only protected children under the age of 16. It does not appear that the misconduct involving Scott Cross was criminal at the time.

When Cross came forward to prosecutors, they moved for a delay in sentencing to give Cross the opportunity to summon the courage to testify, which he was still considering. Hastert objected that a delay was not necessary since written statements could be submitted. I don't believe the prosecutors disputed that Cross was not a victim of the crime charged. The Judge ruled that Cross would be given time to make a difficult decision, and his testimony would go to Hastert's character.

Posted by: PD Shaw | Apr 28, 2016 7:20:43 AM

He was ordered to a attend sex offender treatment program, however, I see no mention of him having to register as a sex offender except in a short article by USA Today.
Does anyone know? Did Judge Durkin order him to register?
I hope so, that would be such good karma coming back to bite him since he helped push through the damn registry in the first place.

Posted by: kat | Apr 28, 2016 11:19:15 AM

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