A new investigation by the Chicago Tribune indicates there may be more sexual abuse claims against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
According to the publication, unnamed law enforcement sources said at least four people made credible allegations of sexual abuse against Hastert. Three of those allegations, the Tribune reports, are believed to have been made by men who say the abuse happened when they were teenagers and Hastert was their coach. The fourth person is reportedly dead.
NBC 5 Investigates reported last month that a man who claims Hastert sexually abused him was cleared to testify in Hastert's upcoming sentencing hearing, along with the sister of another alleged victim, according to statements made during a confidential hearing in the case in late March.
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The statements made in court confirmed for the first time what had only been hinted at for months: that Hastert’s case stemmed from allegations of sexual misconduct.
One of the witnesses is believed to Jolene Burdge, who has said in several media interviews her brother, Stephen Reinboldt, recounted sexual abuse at the hands of Hastert when Reinboldt was a student and Hastert the wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. Reinboldt died in 1995 of complications from AIDS.
Hastert pleaded guilty to a crime known as "structuring," an effort to mask payments to an unnamed individual whom he had reportedly wronged decades ago when he was a wrestling coach.
On Wednesday, attorneys for Hastert submitted a nine-page plea for mercy, saying Hastert has been punished enough through failing health and his own guilt and humiliation. They asked that Hastert be spared time behind bars, and instead receive probation when he is sentenced later this month.
“Mr. Hastert’s fall from grace has been swift and devastating,” they wrote. “[He] knows that the days of him being welcomed in the small towns he served all his life are gone forever.”
Hastert’s attorneys noted that soon after his guilty pleas last October, the former speaker’s health declined with a series of medical problems including sepsis and a small stroke. He was hospitalized for more than two months, and even now, needs assistance “getting out of bed, toileting, bathing, and dressing himself.”
Hastert relies on a caregiver 24 hours a day to meet his basic needs, they said, and largely travels in a wheelchair, although he can walk short distances with a walker and an assistant.
“Mr. Hastert feels deep regret and remorse for his actions a decade ago,” they wrote, “and is prepared to face the consequences.”
Prosecutors declined to comment on the Tribune article.
"We will file our memorandum by the Court-ordered deadline tomorrow," Joseph Fitzpatrick, assistant U.S. Attorney with the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement. "As with all sentencings, we intend to provide the Court with relevant information about the defendant’s background and the charged offenses. The Court can consider all relevant factors in the case to determine an appropriate sentence."
NBC Chicago has reached out to Hastert's lawyers for comment on the Tribune report.
Hastert is scheduled for sentencing April 27.