CHICAGO – An alleged sex abuse victim of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert could testify at his sentencing on a conviction for trying to hide hush money he was paying to another alleged victim, the Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday.
Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty in October to a federal charge of “structuring” – evading bank reporting rules by withdrawing large amounts of cash in smaller increments. The former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives used the funds to pay an individual to keep quiet about decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct.
Hastert’s sentencing has been postponed due to his recovery from a stroke and life-threatening infection, and could possibly be held in May.
At a brief hearing on Tuesday, a federal prosecutor told Judge Thomas Durkin that a man identified as “Individual D” was considering appearing as a witness at the sentencing, according to a transcript published on Wednesday in the Tribune.
“If Individual D wants to come in and talk about being a victim of sexual abuse, he’s entitled to do so because that informs my decision about the history and characteristics of the defendant. It’s that simple,” Durkin said in the transcript.
Prosecutor Steven Block said the alleged victim has been hesitant about coming forward.
“His decision to talk to us has been quite a process and a difficult one at that,” Block said.
Block also told Durkin that the sister of another alleged victim could also testify at sentencing. Block did not name the woman, but he said it was someone who has spoken with national media. Jolene Burdge has spoken on national television to say that her brother, who died in 1995, was sexually abused by Hastert.
Hastert’s defense lawyers argued that the judge could take written testimony from Individual D, and also said that if he came to the sentencing he would be cross-examined.
Durkin said there would be limits to the cross-examination.
Hastert has not been charged with abuse. The victim who he was paying hush money has only been identified as Individual A, and allegedly knew Hastert during the time when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in his hometown of Yorkville, Illinois, in the 1960s and 1970s. It is not clear whether Individual D also knew Hastert during that time frame.