After Hastert sentence, Illinois pushes for change to child abuse law

CHICAGO -- In an emotional plea, the most outspoken sexual abuse survivor of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Scott Cross, testified to state lawmakers Tuesday, asking that statutes of limitations on sex crimes against children be eliminated.

“Since I confronted Hastert in court, the question I’ve gotten the most is ‘How do you feel about his sentence? Was justice delivered?’” Cross said in the hearing, sometimes through a broken voice. “Hastert inflicted unbelievable pain on the lives of those he was entrusted to care for, yet he got a slap on the wrist,” he continued.

In June, Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican House Speaker in U.S. history, began serving a 15-month prison sentence for financial crimes linked to hush money paid to keep decades-old sexual abuse out of the public eye.

Hastert’s crimes occurred when he served as a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in the 1960s and 1970s.  By the time his victims came forward, the statute of limitations had lapsed.  Cross said that Hastert used his power as a coach and then congressman and Speaker to keep his victims from speaking out.

“There are other survivors from every corner of this state who, like me, carry a tremendous burden, suffer under tremendous guilt,” said Cross. “We didn’t come forward quick enough and as a result, were silenced by Illinois’ legal system. Seize this moment in history and make Illinois one of the toughest states on child sex offenders.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who sat next to Cross during his testimony, says it is time that Illinois follow 38 other states that have loosened and eliminated statutes of limitations when it comes to sex crimes—especially those against children.

“The children who suffered from Hastert’s abuse and others may need their entire life to recover,” Madigan told lawmakers.  “They need time to process their assault and come forward to report the crime. Our laws should not let perpetrators benefit from the suffering they inflict on the children,” she added.