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Dennis Hastert settles with accuser in lawsuit over hush-money payments

Hastert’s accuser sued him in 2016, just before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin handed Hastert a 15-month prison sentence for a financial crime revolving around the sexual abuse of the man known publicly only as Individual A.

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert leaves the Dirksen Federal Court House in a wheelchair after his sentencing.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert leaves the Dirksen Federal Court House in a wheelchair after his sentencing.
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Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert struck a deal Wednesday with the man at the center of the prosecution that sent Hastert to federal prison five years ago, settling a lawsuit over hush money payments days before a trial was set to kick off in Kendall County.

Kristi Browne, the lawyer for the man who came to be known publicly as Individual A, said the terms of the tentative settlement were confidential. Hastert’s attorney, John Ellis, declined to comment.

Though the agreement would appear to bring some resolution to Browne’s client — whose hush-money deal with Hastert over decades-old sexual abuse claims ultimately led to Hastert’s disgrace and imprisonment — Browne told reporters, “It’s never over for a victim of childhood sexual abuse.”

“It’s never over,” Browne said. “It impacts them for the rest of their lives. This resolves this case.”

Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer disclosed the settlement and canceled the trial during a brief hearing Wednesday in Yorkville. Jury selection had been set to begin Monday. Browne confirmed that the judge had earlier ruled her client would have to be named in court, but she declined to say whether that played a role in the last-minute deal.

Browne’s client filed the lawsuit against Hastert just before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin handed Hastert a 15-month prison sentence in 2016 for a financial crime revolving around the sexual abuse of Individual A. Hastert admitted during his sentencing hearing he had abused students at Yorkville High School, where he had been a popular wrestling coach.

Durkin referred to the once-powerful politician that day as a “serial child molester.”

Hastert had agreed in 2010 to pay Browne’s client $3.5 million in hush money to keep quiet about allegations that Hastert had abused Individual A. But Hastert’s suspicious bank withdrawals as he tried to make good on the deal caught the attention of federal investigators.

The FBI confronted Hastert before he could pay the full $3.5 million. He paid $1.7 million to Individual A, who then sued for the remaining $1.8 million.

Pilmer declined in 2019 to decide the case without a trial, but he noted that Browne’s client disclosed the deal with Hastert to family and friends. Individual A had spoken to his father, brother and a therapist before striking the deal, the judge wrote. Afterward, he disclosed it to his wife, father and brother, the judge added. He also told a high school friend, according to the ruling.

The judge said Individual A “also discussed matters” with his brother-in-law, whose wife then found out about the deal.

Browne’s client interpreted the agreement to mean he “does not file suit, does not go to the police, does not go to the media, and generally keeps the claim from becoming public knowledge,” the judge wrote.

But Pilmer added, “These are additional terms which were not discussed by the parties.”