Anti-gay former Republican House Speaker allegedly paid hush money to boy he molested

AP and WiG reports

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert paid hush money to conceal claims that the Illinois Republican sexually a boy decades ago when he was a high school wrestling coach, according to a person familiar with the allegations.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Friday on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and the specific nature of the claims was not immediately clear.

Hastert, the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representative in history, has a strong conservative record, opposing abortion under any circumstances and vehemently against gay rights. Rumors of his relationships with teenage boys during his years as a high school wrestling coach, have circulated in Illinois political circles for decades.

It’s believed that more men will step forward with accusations.

Hastert has been married for 42 years and has two sons. In 1976, he was named Illinois wrestling coach of the year. He attended Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school in suburban Chicago.

A federal indictment accused Hastert of agreeing to pay $3.5 million to keep a person from the suburban Chicago town of Yorkville silent about “prior misconduct,” but the court papers did not detail the wrongdoing.

Sources said the case had nothing to do with public corruption or Hastert’s time in elected office. Instead, the indictment accused Hastert of agreeing to pay the money to a person identified in the document only as “Individual A,” to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” that person.

Legal experts say the fact that federal prosecutors noted Hastert’s tenure in Yorkville in the indictment’s first few sentences strongly suggests some connection between the allegations and his time there as a teacher and coach.

“Notice the teacher and coach language,” said Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor and head of the Chicago office of the investigation firm Kroll. “Feds don’t put in language like that unless it’s relevant.”

No one has contacted the school district where Hastert worked to report any misconduct involving him, school officials said in a statement.

As speaker, Hastert pushed President George W. Bush’s legislative agenda, helping pass a massive tax cut and expanding federal prescription drug benefits. During those years, he was second in the line for the presidency, after the vice president.

He retired from Congress in 2007 after eight years as speaker. After leaving Congress, he worked as a lobbyist in Washington.

The indictment charges the 73-year-old with one count of evading bank regulations by withdrawing $952,000 in increments of less than $10,000 to skirt reporting requirements. He also is charged with one count of lying to the FBI about the reason for the unusual withdrawals.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Hastert did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails from the AP seeking comment. He did not appear in public Thursday evening or Friday, and it was not clear if he had an attorney. It’s been reported that he stepped down from his lobbying position due to the allegations.

Prosecutors said Hastert will be ordered to appear for arraignment, but no date had been set.

The indictment said Hastert agreed to the payments after multiple meetings in 2010. “During at least one of the meetings, Individual A and defendant discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier,” and Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to keep it quiet, the indictment said. The indictment suggests he never paid the full amount.

Between 2010 and 2012, Hastert made 15 cash withdrawals of $50,000 from bank accounts and gave cash to Individual A around every six weeks, according to the indictment.

Around April 2012, bank officials began questioning Hastert about the withdrawals. Starting in July of that year, Hastert reduced the amounts he withdrew to less than $10,000 at a time, apparently so they would not run afoul of a regulation designed to stop illicit activity such as money laundering, the indictment said.