The feds uncovered former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s $3.5 million hush-money deal more than a year ago — before he could make good on it.
So now, as Hastert braces for sentencing in federal court Wednesday, the man who collected $1.7 million from Hastert before prosecutors snared the once-powerful Republican has sued Hastert for the remaining $1.8 million, plus interest.
But the still-anonymous Individual A has not joined the call to send Hastert to prison. His attorney, Kristi Browne, told the Chicago Sun-Times he has “put his faith in the criminal justice system to do what is right,” even though Hastert allegedly molested him when he was 14.
“It’s stressful for him,” Browne said of Individual A. “He’s a very private person, and has not sought out any publicity whatsoever, and was hoping that Mr. Hastert would just honor his agreement without all of this. Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen.”
Hastert agreed to “pay every last dollar,” according to the new lawsuit. Hastert’s lawyers declined to comment.
The world may never have learned the former speaker’s dark secret if Individual A had not confronted him in 2010. Individual A claims the men had a spoken contract — Hastert wanted nothing in writing so the deal would remain private. The feds say Hastert passed Individual A the cash first in his Yorkville office and later in a store parking lot.
A bank compliance officer noticed Hastert’s suspicious withdrawals in 2012. The FBI and IRS got involved in 2013, and a federal grand jury indicted Hastert last May. The former speaker pleaded guilty only to a financial crime last fall, but the feds used a 26-page sentencing memo this month to accuse Hastert of sexually abusing five students decades ago when he was a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School, including Individual A.
Hastert was a “trusted friend” of Individual A’s family, according to the new lawsuit filed Monday in Kendall County. And though Individual A had yet to start high school, Hastert offered to take him to a high school wrestling camp, it alleges.
That’s when Hastert “violated” the trust Individual A had placed in Hastert by “sexually molesting and abusing” Individual A in a motel room, according to the complaint. For years, Individual A “suffered severe panic attacks which lead to periods of unemployment, career changes, bouts of depression, hospitalization, and long-term psychiatric treatment,” it said.
Individual A didn’t blame Hastert at first, according to the lawsuit. But in 2008, he learned of another Hastert victim and decided to confront the former speaker.
Browne would not elaborate on the other victim, nor would she provide more details about her client, who has risked his anonymity by filing the lawsuit. But she said her client views the spoken agreement between the two men as a personal injury settlement.
“He believes that Mr. Hastert ought to compensate him for what he did,” Browne said. “The two of them, together, agreed that this was a fair number to compensate him for what he’s gone through and continues to go through. So he wants to see that through, and he wants Mr. Hastert to pay what’s owed.”
While the men had no written agreement, Hastert acknowledged the $3.5 million deal in his October plea agreement. Browne said she sent a demand letter to Hastert’s lawyers a little more than a month ago, but they’ve received no response.
Browne also said her client had no control over the events that led to Hastert’s indictment — and therefore, no regrets. But that doesn’t mean the ordeal hasn’t been stressful.
“If he could have been paid on that agreement without all this, certainly, who wouldn’t prefer that?” Browne said.