Judge in Dennis Hastert case delays ruling on hush-money lawsuit

SHARE Judge in Dennis Hastert case delays ruling on hush-money lawsuit

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert departs the federal courthouse on April 27 in Chicago, after his sentencing on federal banking charges which he pled guilty to last year. Hastert was sentenced to more than a year in prison in the hush-money case | AP photo

A judge in Yorkville has said he will rule next month on whether the town’s onetime favorite son, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, will have to face a breach-of-contract lawsuit seeking to collect the balance of the $3.5 million Hastert agreed to pay to buy the silence of a man whom Hastert sexually abused decades ago.

Hastert, who is serving a 15-month sentence at a Minnesota federal prison for financial crimes related to making the hush money payments, was not in the Kendall County courtroom Friday as Judge Robert Pilmer heard arguments on a motion by Hastert’s lawyers seeking to have the lawsuit thrown out. Also absent was Hastert’s victim, named in the lawsuit as John Doe, and identified in Hastert’s criminal case as Individual A.

Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer | Jim Wyman/WSPY Radio

Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer | Jim Wyman/WSPY Radio

Hastert’s lawyer, John Ellis, argued that the deal was invalid to begin with. But if the judge finds otherwise, it was certainly breached when the victim answered questions from the FBI and federal prosecutors, who were investigating a series of large bank withdrawals that Hastert made to hand over the cash to Doe. In total, Hastert paid out $1.7 million from 2010 to 2014, most made in payments slightly less than the $10,000 that triggers an alert to banking regulators.

Kristi Browne, the lawyer for the victim, countered that her client had to answer questions from federal investigators after Hastert told the FBI that Doe was blackmailing him.

“It actually was Mr. Hastert who initially disclosed the contract,” Browne said. “My client didn’t disclose anything until the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office then approached him, and then, y’know, he was under a legal obligation to answer the questions.”

Browne said her client was not extorting Hastert but approached the former House speaker in 2010 seeking compensation for the trauma he’d suffered in the decades since Hastert assaulted him when the man, now middle-aged, was a teenager on the Yorkville wrestling team.

“It’s definitely not extortion in this case. Both the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys’ Office have determined that its not,” Browne said.

“Mr. Hastert still owes my client $1.8 million dollars under the terms of this agreement. He agreed to pay him $3.5 million dollars and he hasn’t done that.”

Hastert quit his teaching job when he took a spot in the state legislature, then went on to become the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House. Hastert resigned from Congress in 2007 and began a lucrative career as a lobbyist.

Hastert pleaded guilty to federal charges of structuring financial transaction to hide money he was paying to Doe. At his sentencing hearing last spring, Hastert admitted to molesting several former students, including Scott Cross, the brother of Illinois House minority leader Tom Cross, who testified at the sentencing hearing. Doe did not testify at Hastert’s sentencing and has refused media requests for interviews.

Pilmer said he would issue his ruling before the next scheduled hearing in the case, set for Nov. 29.

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