Former US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months of imprisonment by a federal judge who called him a “serial child molester ” in Chicago on Wednesday. During the hearing, a Chicago-area businessman spoke of the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Hastert as a 17-year-old high school student.

The 15-month sentence for Hastert is more than what even the prosecutors had asked for. US District Judge Thomas M. Durkin said he would have sentenced him to a lengthier jail term if not for his age and declining health conditions. The judge, at one point in time, said that probation was not in the cards. There was no apparent reaction from Hastert at the sentence.

Shortly before the sentence was delivered, the former Speaker of the House admitted that he molested young boys decades back when he was the wrestling coach at Yorkville High School, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Scott Cross, a businessman based in Chicago, opened up in public for the first time to give an account of the sexual abuse he had to go through as a 17-year-old high school student.

“It was my darkest secret as he became more powerful,” the ABC News quoted Cross as saying at the hearing. “He was a key figure in my life as a coach and a teacher,” he said, as he paused in between to regain his composure. “I respected and trusted Coach Hastert.” He added, “Coach Hastert sexually abused me in my senior year of high school.”

The testimony was part of the sentencing hearing on the criminal charges that Hastert has been facing for attempting to conceal US$1.7 million (AU$2.23 million) in hush money payments. The payments were made to another former high school student who was also allegedly molested by him.

Hastert apologised to his former students for mistreating them.

“I am deeply ashamed to be standing here today. I know I am here because I mistreated some of my athletes that I coached. I want to apologise to the boys I mistreated. I was wrong and I accept that.”