First Day in Prison for Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert

By  | 

Over 40 years after he reportedly sexually abused young athletes he coached, former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert reported to prison in a wheelchair. He wasn’t convicted on charges of abuse, but rather his recent violation of banking laws when he payed a victim to keep quiet.

Hastert is one of the most recognizable politicians in U.S. history to serve jail time. And he might never have been caught, had the FBI not noticed how he withdrew large amounts of money from several different banks three years ago. According to the Washington Post, he initially claimed he was being blackmailed, but officials soon realized he was lying.

Read Law Street’s previous take about the charges against Hastert here.

The Background

Dennis Hastert was a wrestling coach and high school teacher in the 1970s and molested five teenagers that he coached. In court in April he stood face to face with his victims and admitted that he “mistreated some of my athletes that I coached.” The judge called him a “serial child molester.”

Jolene Reinboldt testified about Hastert’s four year sexual abuse of her brother Steve when he was in high school. She told ABC:

He took his belief in himself and his kind of right to be a normal person. Here was the mentor, the man who was, you know, basically his friend and stepped into that parental role, who was the one who was abusing him… He damaged Steve I think more than any of us will ever know.

Steve Reinbolt told his sister about Hastert in 1979. He died from AIDS eleven years ago.

The sentence

The court couldn’t charge Hastert with sexual abuse since the statute of limitations had run out. He was instead charged with breaking federal banking laws by withdrawing money from several different banks in amounts small enough to not have to report them. He also lied to the FBI about his banking activity.

Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in a medical federal prison in Minnesota. But since he is now old and in poor health he is likely to get out after 12.5 months. He will not stay in a locked cell, his guards are not armed, and he will have access to recreational activities. It seems like a lenient sentence for someone who allegedly destroyed the lives of at least five young boys. But a man who was once so well-respected in U.S. politics will never be looked at in the same light again.

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at



Send this to friend