By ROY STORM . . .
Decades after Dennis Hastert’s alleged sexual abuse of high school wrestlers he coached, the then-Speaker of the House helped pass a tough-on-sex-crimes law known as the Adam Walsh Act.
Now a Florida group that calls that 2006 law “ineffective and unduly harsh,” is asking U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin to consider “hundreds of thousands” of victims it says the law left in its wake while sentencing Hastert for a related hush-money case.
In a sentencing brief filed last week, federal prosecutors for the first time said Hastert molested at least four boys while he was a high school wrestling coach in the 1970s in a southwest suburb of Chicago. With the statute of limitations long expired for those alleged abuses, prosecutors said six months is the maximum prison sentence facing Hastert for a banking crime at his scheduled April 27 hearing.
Hastert’s work on the Adam Walsh Act was “hypocritical and self-serving,” wrote Gail Colletta, the president of the Florida Action Committee, an organization seeking sex registry reform, in a letter filed by the court Tuesday. She asked the judge to impose a sentence longer than the six-month maximum advised by federal guidelines.
“Hundreds of thousands of individuals and their millions of family members and friends have to live with the draconian punishments he fostered,” Colletta wrote. “These individuals are also the victims of Mr. Hastert’s actions.”
Colletta said there are more than 800,000 people in the United States today on sex offender registries, which the 2006 act bolstered. Many of those registered committed “non-violent, one-time” offenses, she said. Her organization seeks sex offender registry and sentencing reform, particularly for juveniles convicted for consensual acts.
“The Florida Action Committee has members who have or are serving decades in prison for consensual teenage relationships and acts that involved no direct victim contact,” Colletta wrote.
Hastert pleaded guilty in October to a structuring violation related to $1.7 million he withdrew from bank accounts prosecutors say was used to pay off a sex abuse victim.
When the Adam Walsh Act was passed in 2006, Hastert, then the Speaker of the House, released a statement celebrating the passage on the 25th anniversary of the abduction of Adam Walsh, a Florida boy taken at a mall and later found dead. His father, John Walsh, went on to host “America’s Most Wanted.”
“At home, we put the security of our children first and Republicans are doing just that in our nation’s House,” Hastert said at the time. “We’ve all seen the disturbing headlines about sex offenders and crimes against children. These crimes cannot persist.”
In 2003, Hastert advocated for another child sex crimes law known as the Protect Act, which mandated life sentences in prison for repeat child molesters and created the Amber Alert system for missing children.
“It is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives and to help law enforcement with the tools they need to get the job done,” Hastert said in a statement in 2003. In a sentencing brief filed last week, Hastert’s Sidley Austin lawyers asked Durkin to forego prison time and impose a probation sentence. The brief said Hastert nearly died from a rare blood stream infection in November, and that he was remorseful, apologizing for “misconduct that occurred many decades ago.”
“By any measure, appearing before this Court to receive its sentence will be the most difficult day in Mr. Hastert’s life,” his lawyer, Sidley partner Thomas Green, wrote.
Source: National Law Journal