Scott Cross, who was allegedly sexually abused by Dennis Hastert as a minor, told CNN he found it “troubling” that Hastert got an early release from prison.
Hastert, a former Speaker of the House, served 13 months in prison for banking violation charges. During the case, it was uncovered that Hastert had sexually abused teens when he was a wrestling coach at a Chicago high school and tried to pay $3.5 million in hush money to keep the abuse quiet.
Now that Hastert has been released early from a 15-month sentence, he will have to undergo intensive sex-offender treatment but will not be required to register as a sex offender.
Cross, speaking in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, said he was initially “disappointed” by the short sentence and “surprised” that Hastert ended up being released early.
“I was a little surprised,” Cross said. “I was a little, to be honest, disappointed in the sentence that was given out but that kind of gave me a chance to reflect on what I wanted to do moving forward being an advocate.”
Prosecutors were not able to charge Hastert for his sexual abuse of minors because the statute of limitations had expired, so they had to settle for the bank fraud charges, which carry a much lighter sentence.
Cross hid what happened to him for 37 years, but decided to testify at Hastert’s trial because he felt the former House Speaker belonged in jail.
“In effect, the reason I came out is it was kind of like a slap on the wrist,” Cross said. “He was charged with a financial crime, not what he had actually done to myself and others back in the ’70s, and it was troubling to hear of the early release.”
Cross described feeling powerless given Hastert’s role as an authority figure in their small community. Later, Hastert would become one of the most powerful men in the world, serving as the U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“I didn’t say anything for 37 years…This is just a burden that you carry,” he asserted. “You think about shame, guilt, embarrassment, humiliation. The Hasterts of the world have so much respect and trust over you that you really have a hard time processing and understanding it.”
“And I don’t think I’m that different from anyone else–that you just hold that in.”
“Internally, Jake, I felt that coming out was the right thing to do,” Cross explained. “I hope that by coming out, other people have the courage to come out and speak out about this.”
Cross has been successful in getting Illinois lawmakers to pass legislation eliminating the statute of limitations on child sex crimes and is working with other states to do the same.