News (USA)

Four ‘credible’ men accuse former GOP house speaker Dennis Hastert of sexual abuse

CHICAGO — At least four people have made “credible allegations of sexual abuse” against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday, citing unidentified law enforcement sources.

The newspaper said all of the accusers are men whose allegations stem from when they were teenagers and Hastert was their high school coach in Yorkville, southwest of Chicago.

One of the accusers is a relative of one of Hastert’s friends and was a student leader at the school in the 1970s, according to the paper.

When that accuser, who has been identified in court documents only as Individual A, applied for his first job after college, he listed Hastert as a reference, the Tribune said. After landing the job in the mid-1980s, he suffered from an anxiety disorder, and court records revealed serious financial problems, the paper reported.

The Tribune said it had determined the identities of three accusers. One of them is dead. The other two are Individual A and a man referred to as Individual D. The Tribune did not name any of the men who are still alive, and it said it did not know the identity of the fourth accuser and offered no details about that person.

Individual A declined to make any comment when approached by the newspaper. Individual D spoke privately to the newspaper.

The now-deceased accuser named by the Tribune had been named previously by The Associated Press as Stephen Reinboldt, a team equipment manager at Yorkville High School, where Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach from 1965 to 1981. Individual A and Individual D, the Tribune said, were popular standout athletes from well-known families, the Tribune reported.

Reinboldt’s sister, Jolene Burdge of Billings, Montana, has told the AP that her brother told her his first homosexual experience was with Hastert and that the sexual abuse lasted throughout his time at Yorkville. Reinboldt died in 1995.

The abuse of Individual D would have occurred not long before Hastert left the Yorkville school in 1981 to take a seat in the Illinois Legislature. As an adult, Individual D became a successful businessman. Recent court documents indicated he is leaning toward testifying at the Republican’s sentencing but has agonized over a final decision.

The Tribune cited a source as saying Hastert recently asked a relative of Individual D to write a letter to the sentencing judge. After that, Individual D contacted authorities about possibly making a victim’s statement at Hastert’s sentencing, the Tribune said.

Hastert, 74, is scheduled to be sentenced April 27. He entered the U.S. House in 1987 and his reputation for congeniality helped him ascend the ranks to become the longest-serving Republican speaker. He retired from Congress in 2007 after running the chamber for eight years.

He pleaded guilty last fall to violating banking laws while seeking to pay $3.5 million in hush money to ensure Individual A stayed quiet. According to court documents, Hastert managed to pay $1.7 million to Individual A in lump sums of $100,000 cash and abruptly stopped the payments in 2014 after the FBI questioned him.

The case has been shrouded in secrecy, starting with the May 28, 2015, indictment. The seven-page document only vaguely hints at Hastert’s motivations for breaking banking law. Only two weeks ago — at an unannounced court hearing — did the judge and attorneys first broach sexual-abuse allegations in a mostly empty courtroom as they discussed Individual D testifying at sentencing.

The Associated Press and other media outlets, citing unnamed sources, previously reported that Hastert wanted to hide claims he sexually molested someone.

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