CHICAGO — Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was released from prison in Minnesota and transferred to a Chicago re-entry facility, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison in April 2016 in a banking violations case that revealed accusations he had sexually abused teenagers while coaching wrestling at a suburban Chicago high school.
The Bureau of Prisons said in an email that Hastert left the Minnesota prison on Monday and is now “under the jurisdiction” of a Chicago residential re-entry management office. It’s unclear whether Hastert was staying at a halfway house or whether he could be transferred to home confinement. Hastert’s release date is listed as Aug. 16.
Hastert’s attorneys declined comment Tuesday.
The Illinois congressman-turned-high-paid lobbyist had to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence, or just over a year. It’s not uncommon for inmates to be released early for administrative or other reasons.
Hastert pleaded guilty to violating banking law in seeking to pay $3.5 million in hush money to keep the sex abuse secret. He is one of the highest-ranking U.S. politicians to ever go to prison, where he was known as Inmate No. 47991-424.
Scott Cross, who testified at Hastert’s sentencing hearing that Hastert abused him as a teen, said Tuesday that he didn’t ask to be notified of Hastert’s release from prison and remains intent on moving on with his life.
“I don’t have any control over this stuff,” he told The Associated Press. “I did what I thought was right for me. I’m not going to look back on it.”
Cross still believes Hastert’s sentence was a “slap on the wrist” but doesn’t fault federal authorities.
“They got him on what they could,” he said.
Hastert’s health has been an issue. He sat in a wheelchair during his sentencing and used a walker to deliver a statement. He served his term at the 64-acre Rochester Federal Medical Center, a prison that specializes in care for physically ailing or mentally ill inmates and is near the Mayo Clinic. Hastert nearly died from a blood infection and had a stroke after he pleaded guilty on Oct. 28, 2015. He also has diabetes.
When Illinois former Gov. George Ryan was released from an Indiana prison in 2013 after five years for corruption, he traveled to a halfway house in Chicago, but was released to return to his home in Kankakee within hours. The Republican was released from home confinement a year later.
Hastert’s sentence includes two years of supervised release, during which he must undergo sex-offender treatment. Prison and health experts have said that treatment will likely include a lie-detector test to determine how many times Hastert sexually abused kids and for how long.
U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin branded Hastert “a serial child molester” during his sentencing in Chicago. Hastert was never charged with child abuse because the statutes of limitation blocked prosecutors from filing charges dating back to when Hastert coached at Yorkville High School, from 1965 to 1981.
Cross, a former wrestler, testified that he was abused when he was in the school locker room.
“I looked up to coach Hastert,” said Cross, who also is the brother of a state Republican leader. “I was devastated. I felt very alone.”
Court filings detailed the abuse allegations, describing how Hastert would also sit in a recliner in the high school locker room with a direct view of the showers.
The nation’s longest-serving GOP House speaker was second in the line to the presidency from 1999 to 2007 under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
In Yorkville, the community that was once immensely proud of Hastert, a former close friend of his, Bob Evans, said he hopes the saga is almost over.
“He did what the law said he had to do and hopefully we will never see him again (and) we will never have to hear about this again,” said Bob Evans, who was a fellow coach at Yorkville High School when Hastert was there. “You just get tired of hearing about it.”