Just over a week ago, news reports alleged that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert tried to conceal that he sexually abused at least one former student when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach.
Now, in interviews released Friday, the sister of one of Dennis Hastert's former students alleged that Hastert abused her brother almost 45 years ago.
It's unclear how the alleged victim, Steve Reinboldt, who died in 1995, factors into the indictment against Hastert, released last Thursday. It detailed how Hastert hid payments totaling more than $1 million to "Individual A"—which he made to cover up "prior misconduct"—and then lied to the FBI about it. Last Friday, two law-enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times that the misconduct in question was sexual abuse.
Reinboldt's sister, Jolene Burdge, told Good Morning America she doesn't know who Individual A is, but she suspects that person knows what happened to her brother.
"Here was the mentor, the man who was, you know, basically his friend and stepped into that parental role, who was the one who was abusing him," Burdge said in the interview. "He damaged Steve I think more than any of us will ever know."
Burdge said Hastert abused Reinboldt during Reinboldt's entire high school career, when he was an equipment manager for the Yorkville, Illinois, wrestling team that Hastert coached.
Reinboldt, who identified as gay and died of AIDS, she said, told his sister in 1979 that an encounter with Hastert was his first "same-sex experience." Reinboldt didn't think anyone would believe him, Burdge said.
"He never had a life," she told the Associated Press this week. "He spent his life trying to run away from it and trying to dull the pain."
Burdge said she confronted Hastert about his alleged abuse when he attended her brother's viewing. "Why you did what you did to my brother?" she said she asked Hastert at the time.
"Then I just continued to say: 'I want you to know your secret didn't die in there with my brother. And I want you to remember that I'm out here and that I know,'" she told GMA. "And again, he just stood there, and he did not say a word."
Burdge added that 20 years after her brother died, she unsuccessfully raised her allegations with news and advocacy organizations, including ABC News, which at the time couldn't verify her account. She told the Associated Press she talked to news organizations in 2006—after it was revealed that Rep. Mark Foley exchanged inappropriate messages with House pages—but decided not to pursue her allegations any further. Then, two weeks ago, the FBI contacted her for an interview about Hastert. Days later, he was indicted.
Burdge said she thinks there could be more victims out there.
"I just think it's really important that these kids get a chance to work through this, because I think it's going to give them a lot of relief," Burdge said. "Please, come forward."
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