When the news broke that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was allegedly paying hush money to a former male student whom he had abused, everyone professed astonishment. Everyone except Jolene Reinboldt. When her brother Steve came out to her in 1979, he told her about his first same-sex experience. It happened in high school, Steve said.
“He looked at me and said, ‘It was with Dennis Hastert,’” Jolene told ABC News Friday. “I was stunned.” Why she asked Steve why he never said said anything about the encounter, or any of the ones that followed, “he just turned around and kind of looked at me and said, ‘Who is ever going to believe me?’”
Steve Reinboldt, who died from AIDS complications in 1995, was the student manager for the wrestling team that Hastert coached at Yorkville High School in Illinois. According to Jolene, Steve told her that Hastert abused him for all four years during high school, until he graduated in 1971.
“Mr. Hastert had plenty of opportunities to be alone with Steve, because he was there before the meets,” Jolene said. “He was there after everything because he did the laundry, the uniforms. So he was there by himself with him.” In Steve’s high school yearbook, Hastert praised the boy as a “great right-hand man.”
Jolene says that the abuse took a toll on 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,” she told ABC. “He damaged Steve I think more than any of us will ever know.”
To add insult to injury, Hastert attended Steve’s funeral. Jolene confronted Hastert in the parking lot after the service.
“I want you to know your secret didn’t die in there with my brother,” Jolene recalls telling Hastert. “And I want you to remember that I’m out here and that I know.” Hastert drove off without responding.
Jolene tried to tell her story to the media, approaching ABC in 2006. Unable to corroborate the allegations, the news division did not pursue the story.
Now with the allegations against Hastert public, Jolene is no longer feeling frustrated. “I feel vindicated and that Steve’s vindicated, that Mr. Hastert can’t pull this wool over everybody’s eyes,” she said. “Finally the truth comes out.”
Hastert has yet to respond to the abuse allegations.
Photo credit: ABC News