Published March 23, 2016
An alleged sex abuse victim of Dennis Hastert could testify about his emotional trauma next month at the former U.S. speaker's sentencing in his hush-money case, according to a transcript of an unannounced court hearing this week during which the court linked sex-abuse allegations to the Illinois Republican for the first time.
Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty on Oct. 28 to violating bank laws as he sought to pay $3.5 million to ensure someone referred to in the 2015 indictment only as "Individual A" stayed quiet about past misconduct by Hastert against Individual A. The misconduct dated back decades to around the time Hastert was a high school wrestling coach.
The Associated Press and other media outlets, citing anonymous sources, previously reported that Hastert wanted to hide claims he sexually molested someone, but the issue hadn't been raised in unsealed filings or in court until this week.
The transcript of Tuesday's federal court hearing, provided Wednesday to the AP by the presiding judge's court reporter, doesn't mention Individual A or raise the prospect that that person might speak at sentencing. Instead, it recounts the judge speaking to prosecutors and attorneys about "Individual D."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block informs Judge Thomas M. Durkin that prosecutors only recently learned "Individual D" is an alleged victim and was leaning toward testifying at sentencing, the transcript says.
"He's not a hundred percent certain he wants to," Block says. He also calls Individual D "a very unique witness who we're trying to be sensitive to" because "he's in a very difficult position."
Durkin said that if the person wants to "talk about being a victim of sexual abuse, he's entitled to do so because that informs my decision about the history and characteristics of the defendant."
The defense said it doesn't plan on challenging allegations made by Individual D, but also urged the court to consider taking his account in writing, rather than having him testify during sentencing. Block said it was important for Individual D to describe how the alleged abused impacted him.
"The fact that the defense may not challenge the specifics of what the defendant did to Mr. D does not mean the Court shouldn't consider the effects on Individual D ... how this has affected his life," Block said at the hearing.
The prosecutor said the man had a business trip that conflicted with the April 8 sentencing date set previously. The judge agreed to move sentencing to April 27.
The transcript also says that a sister of another alleged victim has told prosecutors she wants to testify.
Hastert's attorney, Thomas Green, raised reservations about testimony from both potential witnesses.
"Neither Mr. D nor this other person ... are classic victims under the Victim Protection Act ... so they have no statutory entitlement to appear," Green said.
Durkin said the two would be able to speak at the hearing and that Hastert's attorneys could question them if they believe either says something "factually incorrect."
Jolene Burdge of Billings, Montana, told the AP later Wednesday that she is the sister who intends to testify about sexual abuse against her brother, who died in 1995. She said she confronted Hastert about the allegation at her brother's funeral but that Hastert didn't respond.
"Being able to make a statement is like being able to finish it," she said. "I want to be in the same room with him."
Burdge said her brother, Stephen Reinboldt, told her that his first homosexual contact was with Hastert and that it lasted throughout his time at Illinois' Yorkville High School. Hastert worked at the school from 1965 to 1981, teaching and coaching.
In the transcript, Green noted the sister who wants to testify had already spoken to media outlets about the allegations. He says her account consistently lacked details.
Durkin previously agreed to delay sentencing after defense attorneys said Hastert nearly died from a blood infections and suffered a stroke.
Hastert allegedly paid more than $1.7 million to the person, sometimes in lump sums of $100,000 cash, by the time the scheme was discovered. The indictment said the payments stopped after FBI agents first questioned Hastert in December 2014.
Prosecutors have recommended that Hastert serve no more than six months in prison. Hastert's lawyers are likely to ask for probation. Judges often put ailing or even terminally ill defendants behind bars, though they can factor age and health into decisions on punishment.
A message left Wednesday seeking comment from Green at his Washington, D.C., law office wasn't returned. The U.S. attorney's office declined comment.