Who Was Steve Reinboldt, Dennis Hastert's Alleged Victim? According To Reinboldt's Family, He Was Left "Damaged"
On Friday, a woman came forward claiming to be the sister of Dennis Hastert’s alleged sexual abuse victim. In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Jolene Reinboldt said her brother Steve had been abused while he was attending the Illinois high school where ex-Speaker Hastert was a wrestling coach. (Hastert has denied the claim, according to ABC, but has not publicly responded to his indictment or the allegations.) The claim comes a week after Hastert was indicted on allegations that he made massive cash withdrawals to avoid detection by banks. In the interim, multiple media outlets have claimed Hastert was using the funds (which totaled $1.7 million) as hush money, allegedly paying a former student hundreds of thousands of dollars. Friday’s comments are the first time an individual has been publicly identified as a possible victim. So, who was Steve Reinboldt?
Reinboldt, it emerges, acted as the student equipment manager of the Yorkville, Illinois wrestling team while Hastert was coach in the 70s. Reinboldt earned a gold star for his troubles, with Hastert calling him a “great, right hand man” in the boy’s 1970 yearbook, according to ABC. Yet Jolene alleged Friday that her brother was also the subject of ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of Hastert, a fact which she said she had first been made aware of in 1979 when her brother told her he was gay.
“I asked him, when was your first same-sex experience. He looked at me and said, ‘It was with Dennis Hastert,’” Jolene told ABC. “I was stunned.” She said the abuse extended across Reinboldt’s four years in high school. Reinboldt died of AIDS in 1995.
Hastert, 73, who served as House Speaker for eight years from 1999 to 2007, was indicted last week on bank-related charges — allegedly connected to his payments to an unidentified individual designed “to conceal his past misconduct.” Since his resignation from Congress, Hastert had worked for law firm Dickstein Shapiro as a senior advisor.
Last week’s indictment highlighted that Hastert worked as a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois, between 1965 and 1981. The document also noted that the anonymous alleged recipient of the money, “Individual A”, had known Hastert “most of Individual A’s life” — and alleges that Hastert had agreed to pay $3.5 million to ensure “Individual A” remained silent about Hastert’s “past misconduct.”
However, the indictment stipulated that Hastert had met with “Individual A” in 2010 to arrange this sordid deal. This timing clearly makes identifying “A” as Reinboldt impossible, since by 2010, Reinboldt had been dead five years. Indeed, Jolene told ABC that Hastert had attended Reinboldt’s funeral, where she said she had confronted him. “I said, ‘I want to know why you did what you did to my brother,’” she said, continuing:
And he just stood there and stared at me. He didn’t say, ‘What are you talking about?’ … He just stood there and stared at me… Then I just continued to say, ‘I want you to know your secret didn’t die in there with my brother. And I want you to remember that I’m out here and that I know.’ And again, he just stood there and he did not say a word.
Jolene said she believed that “Individual A” knows what happened to Reinboldt, although she stipulated that she had never asked for money from Hastert. She emphasized that she did not doubt her brother’s story of abuse by Hastert had been completely truthful, but Reinboldt had remained silent because he feared no one would believe him. The alleged abuse, she said, had taken a devastating toll on her brother.
[Hastert] took his belief in himself and his kind of right to be a normal person… 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… He damaged Steve I think more than any of us will ever know.
Jolene alleged that Hastert certainly had enough opportunities to take advantage of her brother. In addition to his role in the wrestling team, she said Reinboldt had gone on a group diving trip to the Bahamas that Hastert had been in charge of. Jolene said she believed the abuse had ended in 1971, when her brother moved away from home after high school.
The FBI declined to comment to ABC News for their report on Jolene’s allegations, while Hastert — who is scheduled to make his first appearance in connection to the fraud allegations next week — has not yet publicly responded to the accusations. ABC noted that it could not corroborate Jolene's report and that Hastert denied the story.
Images: Getty Images (1); ABC News/screenshot (2)