Former Speaker of the House and “serial child molester” Dennis Hastert has gone to court in an effort to restore his teacher’s pension.
Hastert, the U.S. House representative from Illinois’s 14th district from 1987 to 2007, is also arguing that he should not be required to refund $222,808 to the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, according to the Daily Herald, a newspaper out of the suburbs of Chicago.
The 74-year-old Hastert, who currently resides as inmate No. 47991-424 in a federal slammer in Minnesota, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for bank fraud related to sexual abuse allegations in April 2016.
In 2015, Hastert pleaded guilty to illegally structuring financial withdrawals to avoid reporting requirements. The illegal transactions were used to make over $3 million in hush-money payments to a man Hastert allegedly molested during a high school wrestling camp in the 1970s, when Hastert was a coach at Yorkville High School (from 1965 to 1981).
“No specific charges were ever brought against Mr. Hastert in relation to conduct that occurred while he was a teacher,” an attorney for Hastert, Mark DeBofsky, has gamely argued in a letter to the state teacher pension system.
“The applicable limitations period for charging any such offense expired long before the federal indictment was issued,” DeBofsky also wrote.
The limitations period to which DeBofsky alludes stems from a 1987 Illinois appeals court decision ruling that the pension system cannot seek to be reimbursed for benefits paid prior to a criminal conviction.
DeBofsky has argued that Hastert should get his teacher pension until the day he dies. Then, his wife should continue to receive pension payments. Hastert is “entitled to retain the benefits he has already received,” the lawyer also said.
The Daily Herald obtained DeBofsky’s letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Officials with the Illinois teacher pension system based their decision to stop paying Hastert’s pension and to seek reimbursement for past payments on a state law which prevents retired teachers from collection pensions if they have felony convictions related to their employment as teachers.
Prior to his conviction, Hastert had been pocketing over $100,000 annually from three generous pension streams: $16,000 from his teacher pension, $28,000 from his time as an Illinois lawmaker and $73,000 from his time in the U.S. Congress.
Hastert “acknowledged he sexually abused several boys,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
During his 2015 sentencing hearing, Hastert admitted that he “mistreated” boys during his days as a teacher and coach, but he pointedly refused to utter the word “abuse” to describe his conduct. (RELATED: Dennis Hastert Gets 15 Months Behind Bars In Hush-Money Case)
The hearing, held in Chicago, was an emotionally jarring affair, as one of Hastert’s accusers broke his silence to testify before the court. The man, who identified himself as Scott Cross, said Hastert took advantage of him in 1979 when he was a senior in high school, according to NBC News.
Hastert, Cross said, offered to give him a massage after practice, but then pulled down his shorts and fondled his genitals.
“As a 17-year-old boy I was devastated,” Cross said in court. “I tried to figure out why Coach Hastert had singled me out. I felt terribly alone.”
“Today I understand I did nothing to bring this on, but at age 17, I could not understand what happened or why,” Cross also said.
“What I did was wrong and I regret it,” Hastert said at the sentencing hearing. “They looked up to me and I took advantage of them.”
When pressed by Judge Thomas Durkin on whether he sexually abused Cross, Hastert said he did not remember doing so but would “accept” the statement.
Hastert wasn’t on trial for sexual abuse. The statute of limitations — three years in the 1970s — had long expired for all the allegations. However, the allegations almost certainly played a role in Durkin’s decision to levy a harsh punishment on Hastert.
Durkin labeled the former speaker of the house — just two heartbeats away from the presidency — a “serial child molester” who used his office to avoid trouble with the FBI.
Hastert’s 15-month sentence is more than twice as long as the six months sought by prosecutors. He will also have to serve two years of supervised release, attend sex offender treatment, and will be barred from ever again contacting his alleged victims.
The sentence makes Hastert the highest-ranking politician in U.S. history to serve time behind bars.
Hastert is currently confined to a wheelchair due to declining health. He suffered a stroke in 2015.