How the feds uncovered Dennis Hastert’s sordid past
State Rep. Dennis Hastert savors his Congressional victory at his campaign office in the Baker Hotel in St. Charles, Ill. on Nov. 5, 1986.(Don Casper / Chicago Tribune)
Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert leaves after his guilty plea at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago on Oct. 28, 2015.(Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)
(Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune)
(Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)
(Terrence A. James, Chicago Tribune)
Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, second from right, is led by Sidley Austin attorney John Gallo as they make their way through the media gathering at Chicago’s Dirksen U.S. Courthouse on June 9, 2015. Hastert was in court for his arraignment on charges he evaded bank regulations and lied to the FBI.(Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)
Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert makes his way from his Plano home to a limousine waiting in his driveway June 9, 2015. Hastert was due in federal court later in the day, accused of evading bank regulations and lying to the FBI.(Warren Skalski, for the Chicago Tribune)
U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., announces his retirement to reporters and supporters Aug. 17, 2007, in Yorkville.(Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune)
Former Gov. Jim Edgar, left, and former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert greet people during an Illinois Business Immigration Coalition event April 22, 2014, in Chicago.(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)
Cardinal Francis George, left, and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert talk after each spoke about the need for immigration reform during a conference at DePaul University on Feb., 4, 2014.(Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune)
Former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert takes part in a panel discussion at Wheaton College on Oct. 30, 2012.(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)
Former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert at a panel discussion at Wheaton College on Oct. 30, 2012.(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)
Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, right, and Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, notice that Hastert is wearing the same tie as in his portrait during the painting’s official unveiling at the U.S. Captiol on July 28, 2009, in Washington.(Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich talk with reporters after a meeting with legislative leaders to discuss the budget July 31, 2008, in Chicago.(Alex Garcia, Chicago Tribune)
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Northern Illinois University Chairwoman Cherilyn Murer and Dr. Allan Thornton, Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute medical adviser, talk at a groundbreaking for the Northern Illinois Proton Treatment and Research Center at the DuPage National Technology Park on June 19, 2008, in West Chicago.(Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune)
Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert enjoys his visit March 5, 2008, to the Illinois House at the state Capitol in Springfield. Hastert was being honored by Illinois lawmakers for his many years of legislative service.(Seth Perlman, AP)
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert walks through Statuary Hall on his way to the House floor to make his farewell address to Congress on Nov. 15, 2007, in Washington(Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)
House Speaker Dennis Hastert thanks supporter Sondra Hecox of St. Charles on election night Nov. 7, 2006, at the Baker Hotel in St. Charles.(Bonnie Trafelet, Chicago Tribune)
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, left, introduces the new House Majority Leader, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, center, after he defeated Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., right, on Feb. 2, 2006. Blunt had assumed the position on an interim basis after Rep. Tom DeLay stepped down following his indictment.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, right, listens to interim House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo., on Sept. 28, 2005, after House Majority Leader Tom DeLay stepped down from his leadership position following his indictment.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, left, greets former Illinois Gov.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 18, 2005.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
Warrenville Mayor Vivian M. Lund and U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert talk March 23, 2005, after a ceremonial signing of an agreement with the Kerr-McGee chemical company for the removal of radioactive pollutants in Kress Creek and the west branch of the DuPage River.(John Dziekan, Chicago Tribune)
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert walks through the U.S. Capitol building, August 4, 2004 in Washington D.C. flanked by security and members of his staff. Hastert had held the position of Speaker for 6 years and recently wrote a book detailing his life and career.(Steven Rosenberg / Chicago Tribune)
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert in his office at the U.S. Capitol on August 4, 2004.(Steven Rosenberg / Chicago Tribune)
U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, left, Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Minority Leader
U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert waves as he is introduced as speaker of the House by Rep.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert signs Dana Balicki’s boxing robe during a celebration of the expansion of the Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora on Aug. 27, 2002.(Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune)
House Speaker Dennis Hastert awaits a television interview on election night in Aurora on Nov. 6, 2002.(E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune)
House Speaker Dennis Hastert signs an autograph for Kate Stjefbold, 9, at Sandwich Fairground in Sandwich on July 19, 2002.(Michael Walker, for the Chicago Tribune)
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, left, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert hold up sample tax cut checks during a Republican rally at the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 2, 2001, to celebrate all they’ve accomplished during the congressional session.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
President George W. Bush, right, chats with Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert during a Congressional Medal of Honor ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on July 26, 2001.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
President George W. Bush shakes hands with Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, right, after addressing a joint session of Congress and a national television audience at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 28, 2001. Vice President Dick Cheney, center, applauds Bush.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
U. S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert holds a news conference Feb. 12, 2001, on the driveway of his home in Yorkville to let the media know that he is fine after surgery the night before to alleviate discomfort from kidney stones.(Mario Petitti, Chicago Tribune)
Senate Majority Leader
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert speeds off Sept. 22, 1999, while driving a minicar in the third annual “Capitol Hill Challenge,” for the Kmart Kids Race Against Drugs.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
House Speaker Dennis Hastert greets supporters on election night, Nov. 7, 2000, in Aurora.(Stephanie Sinclair, Chicago Tribune)
House Speaker Dennis Hastert is prepped for a CBS news show on election night, Nov. 7, 2000, in Aurora.(Stephanie Sinclair, Chicago Tribune)
U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert watches as fishing instructor Owen Owens tries to untangle his line from a tree during an early-morning fishing trip to Valley Forge State Park in Pennsylvania on July 31, 2000.(Stephanie Sinclair, Chicago Tribune)
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, left, speaks during a City Hall news conference as U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert whispers to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, right. The news conference in 1999 announced the partial federal funding of the reconstruction of Chicago’s Lower Wacker Drive and completion of the Stevenson Expressway repairs.(Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune)
U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, right, and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, center, applaud as third-grader Kiara Hastings, left, finishes her introductory speech during the congressmen’s visit to the Arna Bontemps Public School in the Englewood neighborhood June 1, 1999.(John Lee, Chicago Tribune)
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert poses for a photo with eighth-grade American history students after speaking to them at Batavia Middle School on May 10, 1999.(Mario Petitti, Chicago Tribune)
(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert poses with a couple who recognized him as he departed the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 17, 1999, in Washington. A plainclothes Capitol police officer stands guard as Hastert aide Sam Lancaster takes the picture.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
Dennis Hastert appears at a Yorkville radio station in 1999.(Candice C. Cusic, Chicago Tribune)
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert gets his hair cut by Chuck Wolfe, owner of Chuck’s in Yorkville, on Feb. 16, 1999.(Candice C. Cusic, Chicago Tribune)
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert pays the check at the Cozy Corner Family Restaurant in Yorkville on Feb. 16, 1999.(Candice C. Cusic, Chicago Tribune)
Jean Hastert sits with her husband, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and family friend Bob Williams inside the Cozy Corner Family Restaurant in Yorkville on Feb. 16, 1999.(Candice C. Cusic, Chicago Tribune)
Vice President Al Gore, left, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert applaud President Bill Clinton before his State of the Union address Jan. 19, 1999, in Washington, D.C.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, right, and Mayor
Dennis Hastert, new Speaker of the House, is congratulated by Democratic Minority Leader Dick Gephardt on Jan. 6, 1999.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., with his wife, Jean, at his side, speaks at a news conference Jan. 5, 1999, in Washington.(Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune)
State Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, speaks about a public utilities bill June 21, 1985, in Springfield.(John W. Cary, UPI)
State Reps. Dennis Hastert and Jane Barnes speak in 1983 on the bipartisan Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission at the State of Illinois Building in Chicago. The group studied child abuse. Rep. Aaron Jaffe, D-Skokie, and Hastert, R-Oswego, co-chaired the group.(Val Mazzenga, Chicago Tribune)
State Rep. Dennis Hastert campaigns for Congress in 1986 in Aurora.(David Butow, Chicago Tribune)
State Rep. Dennis Hastert, 39th District.(Chicago Tribune historical photo)
Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert in a photo from a 1973 Yorkville High School yearbook when he was the school’s wrestling coach.(Handout)
Dennis Hastert in a photo in the 1966 Yorkville High School yearbook, the first year he taught at the school.(Handout)
Approached by federal agents last year about dozens of large cash bank withdrawals, Dennis Hastert claimed he was being extorted by a former student who said Hastert had sexually abused him decades earlier when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach.
The agents took the former U.S. House speaker at his word. But when they listened in on two phone conversations between Hastert and the man supposedly pressuring him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, agents began to suspect the story was a lie.
What soon was apparent, according to an explosive document filed in the federal case against Hastert late Friday, was that instead of being forced to pay to keep false allegations from being spread, Hastert was paying to hide his sexual abuse of a 14-year-old boy.
The document filed by federal prosecutors in advance of Hastert’s April 27 sentencing provides a dramatic account of the fall of the man who once was second in line to the U.S. presidency, with the first details of how Hastert allegedly fondled young wrestlers who saw him as a mentor.
The document depicts a seemingly desperate Hastert trying to protect himself by shifting blame onto one of the former wrestlers, a claim that came undone when agents recording Hastert’s phone calls with the man they came to call Individual A heard his voice for the first time.
They realized then that Hastert might be the criminal.
Hastert’s attorneys have sought to portray him in advance of sentencing as a family man who gave great service to his country and, in his old age and in ill health, regrets unspecified indiscretions from decades ago. They have asked for probation for Hastert’s money-structuring conviction.
Prosecutors, in their 26-page filing late Friday, offered a starkly different portrayal. Hastert, they said, had hidden the alleged sexual abuse of five young men for decades while rising in politics and, over time, amassing considerable wealth — while leaving his victims emotionally shattered.
Prosecutors noted that Hastert could not be charged with sex crimes because the statute of limitations had long passed.
The Hastert investigation, according to the court filing, began in April 2012, when a bank compliance officer preparing for a routine exam unrelated to Hastert noticed a strange series of seven $50,000 cash withdrawals made from Hastert’s account in Yorkville dating to 2010.
When a risk management officer spoke to Hastert about the withdrawals, Hastert initially said that they were “none of his business.”
For a few months after that conversation, Hastert stopped withdrawing money, according to the court filing. When the transactions resumed that July, the withdrawals were in $9,000 increments, below the $10,000 threshold requiring them to be reported to regulators.
The FBI and the Internal Revenue Service learned of the suspicious activity as well as similar large withdrawals from two other bank accounts held in Hastert’s name. In less than two years, Hastert had taken out $775,000 in cash from the three accounts, with the increments dropping from $50,000 to $9,000 each time.
On Dec. 8, 2014, FBI agents confronted Hastert at his home in Plano. He told them bank officials had given him a “real hassle” when he’d withdrawn $50,000 and that he didn’t want them “calling up all the time,” according to the court filing. Hastert said he was not in any kind of trouble but was keeping his cash “in a safe place” because he didn’t think banks were secure, an explanation the agents viewed with skepticism.
Shortly after that interview, Hastert’s lawyers contacted the government to make a startling accusation: The former speaker was being extorted by a former Yorkville High School student and wrestler — the man who came to be called Individual A — who threatened to go public with a false allegation that Hastert had inappropriately touched him during a wrestling trip decades ago. He demanded $3.5 million in hush money.
Hastert agreed to record conversations with Individual A.
In the first call, in early March, Hastert told Individual A at the direction of the FBI that he needed more time to get the next $100,000 payment. Individual A agreed to the delay. Three weeks later, Hastert again placed a recorded call to Individual A. This time, agents had instructed him to “push back” against Individual A, to say he had been falsely accused and he wanted the payments to finally end.
In both calls, agents and federal prosecutors noted that Individual A’s tone and comments did not sound like someone committing extortion. Individual A did not threaten to go public. He did not seem angry that Hastert had asked for more time. Indeed, he was sympathetic to Hastert.
In the second call, in fact, Individual A said he understood his agreement with Hastert was a “private, personal matter” and nobody else’s business. He offered to slow the payments down and asked about keeping their stories straight. He also reminded Hastert that he had wanted to bring in “two close confidantes” of Hastert’s to help them reach an agreement and that he also wanted to involve lawyers in the deal to make it “legal.”
Hastert had refused.
Agents confronted Individual A. He told them that when he was a wrestler for Hastert’s team in the 1970s, the coach had invited him to attend a wrestling camp with other boys that included a two-night stay in a motel. Hastert, the only adult on the trip, told Individual A he would stay in the coach’s room, while the other boys slept in another room, according to the court filing.
When it was time for bed, Individual A went to Hastert’s room, where the coach told him he wanted to “check on” a groin pull he had complained about. According to Individual A’s account, Hastert told him to lie on the bed and take off his underwear, then began massaging his groin area in a way that was clearly inappropriate, the filing stated.
Individual A “jumped off the bed, grabbed his underwear and ran across the room to slouch in a chair,” the filing said.
He was confused and embarrassed and wound up apologizing to Hastert. The two slept in the same bed that night, though the next night Individual A refused to go to Hastert’s room, according to the court filing.
It was not until 2010 that Individual A said he began thinking about confronting Hastert about the long-ago incident. He met with Hastert and asked him “why he had done it.”
“After a long pause, (Hastert) said that it was a confusing and difficult time in his life,” the court filing said.
When Individual A asked Hastert how many other boys he had molested, Hastert claimed there was only one other victim.
When the two met a couple of weeks later, Individual A said he wanted $3.5 million for what Hastert had done to him, according to the filing. Hastert did not try to negotiate the payment amount.
The first cash payment of $50,000 was made at Hastert’s Yorkville office. He told Individual A not to buy any “big-ticket items” with the money. They agreed to meet every month and a half for another $50,000 payment but later changed the arrangement to $100,000 every three months, according to the filing. They exchanged the money during meetings in the parking lot of a Yorkville store.
In all, prosecutors alleged that Hastert abused five young men, one of whom died in 1995, all affiliated with the wrestling team. The allegations stretch over more than a decade and begin within years of Hastert’s arrival as a 23-year-old teacher at the high school in 1965. The Tribune has determined the identity of three of the five men.
Individual A has declined to comment.
He was alone after a workout when Hastert told him to get on a massage table so the coach could “loosen him up,” the court filing said. At some point, Hastert told the boy to turn so he was lying face up on the table.
“Defendant then performed a sexual act on Individual B,” prosecutors wrote.
Another wrestler, whom prosecutors called Individual C, alleged a similar scenario, though not as graphic. He said Hastert “brushed his hand against (the boy’s) genitals” during a massage. Prosecutors did not provide the boy’s age in their sentencing memo, but they said the alleged inappropriate touch occurred one night after practice when the boy had stayed late to run to “cut weight” and had just finished showering.
“Individual C recalls that it was ‘very weird’ and made him uncomfortable,” prosecutors wrote. “Individual C did not physically react to being touched by defendant, and at some point he got up and put on his clothes.”
According to Tribune reporting, Individual D graduated Yorkville High School toward the end of the coaching tenure of Hastert, who left in 1981 after winning election to the state legislature. Late one night after practice, Individual D had stayed afterward to “cut weight.” Hastert suggested that a massage could “take some pounds off.” But instead, Hastert performed “a sexual act” on the 17-year-old boy after removing his pants, according to the court filing.
Prosecutors also said Individual D told them about a peculiar habit their coach had of watching the teens while they showered. Other wrestlers in earlier Tribune interviews echoed the account provided in the filing. “Individual D recalled that defendant put a ‘Lazyboy'-type chair in direct view of the shower stalls in the locker room where he sat while the boys showered,” prosecutors wrote.
One of the underage boys whom Hastert is alleged to have abused is dead. Stephen Reinboldt died in 1995 at age 42 of AIDS.
Jolene Burdge poses at her home on April 6, 2016, in Billings, Mont. She said her brother, Stephen Reinboldt, was sexually abused by former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert when Reinboldt was a student and Hastert was a wrestling coach and teacher at Yorkville High School. Burdge is expected to give a victim-impact statement at Hastert’s sentencing.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Stephen Reinboldt, shown in the 1971 Yorkville High School yearbook, was an equipment manager for the football and wrestling teams at the school.(Yorkville High School)
Then coach Dennis Hastert stands above then high school junior Stephen Reinboldt in a wrestling team photo from the 1970 Yorkville High School yearbook. Reinboldt was listed as team manager.(Yorkville High School yearbook)
Jolene Burdge and her brother, Stephen Reinboldt, in 1979.(Provided by Jolene Burdge)
Stephen Reinboldt in a family photo from 1980. Reinboldt died of AIDS in August 1995 at age 42.(Provided by Jolene Burdge)
A laminated news clipping from the Aurora Beacon News of Stephen Reinboldt’s obituary from 1995, courtesy of Jolene Burdge, photographed at her home April 6, 2016, in Billings, Mont.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Signature from Dennis Hastert in a memorial book from the 1995 funeral of Stephen Reinboldt. Hastert attended his funeral. Jolene Burdge, Reinboldt’s sister, says she confronted Hastert at the funeral about the alleged sexual abuse of her brother.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
The grave of Stephen Reinboldt is seen in Elmwood Cemetery on April 5, 2016, in Yorkville. Reinboldt’s sister alleges he was sexually abused as a student at Yorkville High School by Dennis Hastert.(Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
The former Yorkville High School, where Dennis Hastert taught and coached wrestling from 1965 to 1981, shown April 5, 2016.(Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
An oversized ice cream cone sits next to a restaurant near the site of the former Tastee Freez on April 5, 2016, in Yorkville.(Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
A man walks along the road near the intersection of East Hydraulic and North Bridge streets on April 5, 2016, in Yorkville.(Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
A school bus crosses railroad tracks near the intersection of East Hydraulic and North Bridge streets April 5, 2016, in Yorkville. During his years as a teacher and coach at Yorkville High School, Dennis Hastert was active in the community, driving his antique firetruck in parades and volunteering in local youth organizations.(Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
Reinboldt was a longtime wrestling team equipment manager until his 1971 graduation.
His younger sister, Jolene Burdge, said her brother told her Hastert had abused him “all through high school.” According to the court filing, three other people have since come forward to say that Reinboldt had also confided in them about Hastert’s sexual abuse of him.
Hastert’s attorneys said Hastert was “profoundly sorry” for harming others and that he had chosen a career path designed to make a difference in the lives of youths. They said his accomplishments and lack of a previous criminal history should rule the day when it comes to deciding how he should be punished.
The lawyers wrote, too, that Hastert had endured a public shaming and asked for probation for him.
Prosecutors said that what Hastert allegedly did to his alleged victims should be weighed against his record of public service. Hastert’s ascent was only possible because his secret past remained hidden, they said, arguing for up to six months in prison.
“The incidents of sexual abuse occurred at a time in their lives when they stood on the beginning edge of sexual maturity,” the prosecutors wrote. “It is profoundly sad that one of their earliest sexual experiences was in the form of abuse by a man whom they trusted and whom they revered as a mentor and coach. Defendant’s legacy of sexual abuse and its real consequences are as much a part of defendant’s history and characteristics as those he has presented to the court.”
Stephen Reinboldt’s sister Jolene Burdge speaks out about her brother’s alleged abuse by Dennis Hastert decades ago when they lived in Yorkville. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
When Hastert’s sentence ends, prosecutors said, Hastert should be evaluated as a sex offender and never again have any contact with his alleged victims.
Burdge, reached at her Montana home after she had read the court filing, said she felt her efforts to speak out on her brother’s behalf had made a difference.
“Stevie didn’t think anyone would ever believe him,” she said. “This confirms he was telling the truth. It’s right there in black and white.”
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