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Prosecutors Say Hastert Sexually Abused Minors; Recommend Up To 6 Months Prison

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Federal prosecutors in Chicago have outlined stunning new details about the alleged sexual misconduct that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was trying to cover up with millions of dollars in hush money. Prosecutors say that misconduct involved the sexual abuse of at least four students when Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in a Chicago suburb in the late-1960s and '70s before he was elected to public office.

Hastert pleaded guilty last fall to violating banking laws when he withdrew what prosecutors say was money to pay off a man that Hastert abused when that individual was 14 years of age. We're joined now from Chicago by NPR's David Schaper. David, thanks for being with us.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Thanks, Scott.

SIMON: There have been hints - if you please - about some of this since the indictment last summer, but what does the filing say?

SCHAPER: Well, it's a 26-page sentencing memo that details claims of sexual abuse told by four individuals who were teenage boys coached by Denny Hastert at Yorkville High School, about 50 miles west of Chicago in the '60s and '70s. The prosecutors cite information from a women as well whose brother claimed he had been assaulted by Hastert. That brother since died. The victims say the abuse began with Hastert giving massages, touching them sexually and performing sex acts in the locker room and in one case in a motel room. One of the students who is referred to only as Individual A in the court document says Hastert isolated him from the rest of the wrestlers on a team trip when he was 14 and touched him sexually.

Now, prosecutors say that that sexual abuse of Individual A, that Hastert was desperately trying to keep quiet. He had - excuse me. He had agreed to pay that individual 3.5 million dollars in this hush money. The prosecution details the illegal instruction of bank withdrawals to make these payoffs. And that's what caught the attention of the FBI. And it's the violation of those banking laws that Hastert ended up pleading guilty to. Because of the statute of limitations Hastert cannot be charged for those sex abuse claims.

SIMON: David, you and I know that Denny Hastert, as he was very familiarly called, was the pride of Yorkville.

SCHAPER: Yeah, you know...

SIMON: Go ahead, yeah.

SCHAPER: That high school wrestling team he coached was quite good. When he was the coach it was always the top team and won the state championship I think in 1976. And, you know, they had signs up when he entered town - this is the hometown of Denny Hastert. He was well-loved, trusted and respected. And interestingly in the court filing the prosecution underscores how he violated and destroyed that trust with his players, pointing out that Hastert really lived a life of stunning hypocrisy.

The sentencing memo notes that in Hastert's autobiography he says there's no reason to ever strip away another person's dignity. But the prosecutors say that's exactly what Hastert did to his victims, making them feel alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity.

SIMON: NPR's David Schaper speaking with us from Chicago about the sentencing report for Dennis Hastert. Thanks very much for being with us, David.

SCHAPER: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.