Former U.S. Congressman and accused child molester Dennis Hastert was confronted in open court today by one of his alleged victims, the brother of his longtime ally, former Illinois State Rep. Tom Cross.
Federal agents say Hastert allegedly assaulted at least four male students he encountered as a teacher and wrestling coach at the Yorkville High School, where he worked in the 1970's before entering national politics.
Hastert will never be charged with those alleged assaults because the statute of limitations has expired, but he did plead guilty to banking fraud charges after the feds caught him withdrawing millions of dollars in cash to pay off at least one of the alleged victims, referred to in court papers as “Victim A.”
Another victim, who was referred to in court papers only as “Victim D,” identified himself during proceedings as Scott Cross, a 53-year-old former student of Hastert’s, who now works as a banking executive.
During the sentencing hearing, Cross, at times in tears, spoke publicly about Hastert’s abuse for the first time. Cross says he wrestled for Hastert and was stunned by the abuse, which he said occurred when he was a 17-year-old high school senior.
“I’ve always felt that what Coach Hastert had done to me was my darkest secret,” Cross testified Wednesday. “I was alone. Coach Hastert told me I could lose weight by giving me a massage. I trusted him and took him at his word.”
Cross also testified that Hastert would routinely watch the boys shower from a recliner outside the locker room bathrooms.
Cross’s brother, former Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross, is a long-time Hastert supporter who has referred to the disgraced Congressman as a “political mentor” and sponsored a bill honoring him in 2008.
“Denny Hastert was a mentor, a parent and was a coach in so many ways and made them exceptional individuals as they went on in life,” Tom Cross reportedly explained in March 2013. “I also want to say thank you to Denny Hastert who has done so many great things for this state and political world, and we appreciate that on both sides of the aisle, I know.”
When Hastert was initially accused of improperly withdrawing funds to pay off his alleged victims, Rep. Cross told reporters he was “speechless” over the allegations.
Hastert, who had 60 of his influential friends and family write letters asking the judge for leniency, apparently asked Rep. Cross to submit one as well. The Chicago Tribune reports that Rep. Cross was at that point aware that Hastert had allegedly molested his brother and did not respond.
Hastert, who testified after Cross, admitted “mistreating” some of the athletes he coached and reportedly answered “yes” when the judge asked if he had molested one of the alleged victims, Stephen Reinboldt. Confronted with Cross’ testimony, Hastert reportedly said, “I don’t remember that, but I accept his statement.”
The judge, who called Hastert a “serial child molester,” said Hastert will be required to register as a sex offender and may not contact any of his alleged victims as part of his conditional release.