Former US Speaker ‘covered up abuse’

In this June 9, 2015 file photo, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert departs the federal courthouse in ChicagoImage copyright

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Hastert has pleaded guilty to lying and breaking financial laws

Prosecutors are seeking a six-month jail sentence for disgraced former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is alleged to have paid hush money to cover up sex abuse.

Court documents say Hastert agreed to pay $3.5m (£2.5m) to a person he sexually abused when the victim was aged 14 and Hastert was working as a teacher and wrestling coach.

He is said to have abused five victims.

The 74-year-old has admitted lying and breaking financial laws.

The plea represents a dramatic fall for the former senior Republican politician, who has had his portrait removed from the House of Representatives in the US Congress.

The alleged abuse happened while Hastert was working in Yorkville, a suburb outside Chicago, between 1965 and 1981. Three of the victims were wrestlers on a team he coached.

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Hastert (r), seen here in 2005 with President George W Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, was the longest-serving Republican Speaker

One – referred to in court documents as Individual A – said Hastert stayed with him in a motel room on the way back from a trip to a wrestling camp and touched him inappropriately.

Two of the others, aged 14 and 17, said Hastert performed sex acts on them in the locker room at the high school in Yorkville.

All the victims “struggled and are still struggling” with what Hastert did to them, prosecutors argue. Hastert made them feel “alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity”, they say.

Hastert, who retired in 2007 after serving as House Speaker for eight years, will be sentenced later this month for concealing the large sums of money he paid to Individual A to buy his silence.

Between 2010 and 2012 he withdrew $750,000 in lump sums of $50,000 before learning of rules requiring banks to report large transactions.

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Hastert (r) became Speaker during Bill Clinton’s presidency

After that he withdrew a further $952,000 in lump sums of less than $10,000 between 2012 and 2014.

He was able to pay Individual A $1.7m in payments of $100,000 before in 2014 being questioned by the FBI about his withdrawals.

In a deal with prosecutors, he admitted the charge of “structuring and assisting in structuring currency transactions” by removing small sums of money to avoid the transactions being reported.

However, another charge of lying to FBI investigators is set to be dropped.

Defence lawyers want Hastert to be spared jail because they say he is suffering from ill health.

He is due to be sentenced on 27 April.

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