Dennis Hastert victim Scott Cross testifies at statute of limitations hearing

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Scott Cross testified during a Illinois Senate hearing about eliminating statutes of limitation for felony sex crimes against children. (WLS)

For the first time, one of the men who accused former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of sexually abusing him when he was a teenager shared his story with the public.

Scott Cross testified Tuesday morning before Illinois lawmakers, urging senators to pass legislation eliminating statutes of limitation for felony sex crimes against children. He joined Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and several advocates.

"Dennis Hastert was a monster, yes was protected by outdated laws," said Cross, who alleges that Hastert molested him in 1979, when he was on Yorkville High School's wrestling team and Hastert was his coach.

He said Hastert used his prestige, power and the law to escape punishment for abusing boys decades ago.

Hastert is serving 15 months for banking violations for paying hush money. However, while a federal judge called the former U.S. Speaker of the House a "serial child molester," too much time had passed for Hastert to be charged with abusing the boys he once coached at Yorkville High.

Illinois law states that someone cannot be prosecuted for a crime committed 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday.

The Illinois Attorney General's Office says studies show most child abuse victims don't speak out until they're 42.

"Sadly my story is not unique because there are too many abusers like Dennis Hastert in this world," Cross said.

"Just by eliminating the statute of limitations we don't eliminate the burden of proof to prove a criminal case," Madigan said.

Public defenders urged lawmakers to find a middle ground, perhaps removing time limits in cases where multiple victims come forward.

"Every time you give prosecutors more leeway, more tools, there's the potential for abuse," said Steve Baker, of the Cook County Public Defender's Office.

Cross' story prompted this most recent push for change in Illinois. He got choked up Tuesday as he made his statement.

"Hastert inflicted unbelievable pain on the lives of the youth he was entrusted to care for. Yet, he got a slap on the wrist. As hard as it is to continue to live through the events of the past, the laws in Illinois and across the country have to change," Cross said.

There are currently four bills pending in Springfield that would remove the state of limitations from felony child sex abuse crimes. There are 37 states that are already without restrictions on prosecuting these cases.
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