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Fmr. House speaker gets jail time over sexual abuse

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo taken on June 2, 2009 shows former speaker of the House Dennis Hastert in the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (AFP)

Former US House speaker Dennis Hastert faces time behind bars for paying to cover up his sexual abuse of some high school wrestlers decades ago.

Hastert was convicted of financial crimes over payments to one of his victims and sentenced to 15 months in prison on Wednesday.

The federal judge in the case called Hastert a serial child molester after one of the victims said in an emotional testimony that he was molested when he was a teen.

Reports say in the sentence that also includes two years of supervised release, US District Judge Thomas Durkin in Chicago also recommended that Hastert participate in a treatment program for sex offenders.

The abuses took place when the former House speaker worked as a school coach.

Hastert was not charged with sex crimes because the statute of limitations had passed, giving him a sort of immunity. However, he admitted for the first time on Wednesday that he abused multiple student-athletes at the Yorkville High School in Illinois from the 1960s to the early 1980s.

"What I did was wrong and I regret it," Hastert said after being pressed by the judge. "They looked to me and I took advantage of them."

Prosecutors say at least five boys as young as 14 were abused by the Republican politician.

Last year, Hastert pleaded guilty to illegally structuring bank withdrawals to avoid reporting where he was sending the money as part of a $3.5 million settlement over the abuse.

Federal prosecutors say Hastert paid a total of $1.7 million between 2010 and 2014, which only stopped when the court started investigating him.

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