Wearing a black shirt, camouflage pants, and the worried look of a man whose life is about to change in ways he could never have imagined, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert surrendered Wednesday to the Federal prison in Rochester, Minnesota.
Mandated by court order to show up by 2 p.m., Hastert arrived early, rolling through the prison gate with his wife Jean at 11:43 a.m.
Hastert pushed his own wheelchair as his wife attempted to manage a walker, which she dropped and had to retrieve after accompanying her husband inside the prison gatehouse. After a brief time inside, she returned to her car, and left the prison alone.
Officially the Federal Medical Center of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the facility is generally considered the system's finest hospital/prison, because of its affiliation with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. Hastert suffers from a variety of disorders, and was ordered here to continue medical treatment while he serves the 15 month sentence imposed two months ago, for hush money schemes relating to sex crimes with high school students in the seventies.
"I'm glad it's over," said Jolene Burdge, sister of one of Hastert's victims, Steven Reinboldt. "The whole situation is very sad but anyone who abuses children needs to be held responsible no matter how long it takes."
Burdge testified against Hastert at sentencing, telling him at one point, "I hope I have been your worst nightmare."
"This is why there should be no statute of limitations (on abuse cases)," she said. "I know Steve is glad I never gave up and that now people know he was telling the truth."
At sentencing, Hastert admitted abusing student athletes during the period when he was wrestling coach at Yorkville High School.
"The other inmates, they're going to shun him," predicted Larry Levine, an ex-con who now works as an inmate consultant from his home base in Los Angeles. "He has that stigma of child molester, of being a politician. Two strikes! Nobody likes politicians, and nobody likes child molesters."
If he is deemed physically able, Hastert will be given a job. His mail will be opened and read before he receives it, and his phone calls will be restricted to a specific list.
And in something of a bitter irony for a man who used to represent the United States around the world, the former Speaker's movements about the prison will be restricted to specific periods of the day.
His bed is to be made by 7:30every morning, and his living space is to be swept and damp mopped daily.
After disappearing into the correctional center's gate house, reporters observed Hastert wheeling himself through a prison courtyard, the razor wire all-but obscuring a man who was once one of the most powerful people in America.