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Former State GOP Leader Tom Cross Has Painful Connection To Hastert Case

(CBS) -- It's a stark contrast.

In a late 1998 interview, then-state Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, sang the praises of Illinois Congressman Dennis Hastert, his political mentor, a former Yorkville High School wrestling coach and teacher. Hastert, a fellow GOP member from the region, was becoming U.S. House Speaker, third in line to the presidency of the United States.

"I'm very happy for him. I'm proud of him. Everyone in our county is ecstatic, we're still walking on air because this is a guy we all know," Tom Cross told CBS 2 back then of Hastert. "I don't think there's any question that we'll now have, obviously, a go-to guy."

He added: "Will it be good for Chicago and Illinois? You bet. Will there be excess and greed? No. He will continue, I think, to be a balanced guy."

It was a different story Wednesday, when a bombshell disclosure emerged. Cross's younger brother, Scott, testified in court that Hastert had molested him when he was a high school athlete. Scott Cross's testimony came as an ailing Hastert, now 74, was sentenced for breaking banking laws as he paid hush money to another alleged sex-abuse victim.

As he was wheeled into court, Dennis Hastert was moments away from facing Scott Cross. Cross told Judge Thomas Durkin how much he admired Hastert, Coach Hastert, when Cross was an aspiring wrestler more than 40 years ago.

"I respected and trusted Coach Hastert," Cross said.

But as a 17-year-old member of Hastert's wrestling team, Cross said the coach gave him a massage that turned sexual.

"I grabbed my shorts and ran out of the locker room," he said.

Cross, now a 53-year-old husband and father, choking up said he's been plagued with "intense pain, shame and guilt."

"He stood up and spoke the truth of what Mr. Hastert did to him as a boy, how coach abused him, violated his trust and in doing permanently scarred him," said U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon.

In court, Hastert said he could not remember molesting Cross.

Tom Cross, former GOP House Leader in the Illinois General Assembly, issued a statement that did not mention Hastert by name.

"We are very proud of Scott for having the courage to relive this very painful part of his life in order to ensure that justice is done today.  We hope his testimony will provide courage and strength to other victims of other cases of abuse to speak out and advocate for themselves.  With his testimony concluded, we ask now that you respect Scott's privacy and that of our family," Tom Cross said.

Hastert approached Tom Cross asking him to write a letter of support leading up to the sentencing.

A federal judge sentenced Hastert to 15 months in prison.

Cross currently is chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

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