Civil case over Dennis Hastert hush-money payments could go to trial after judge’s ruling
The civil case over hush money payments made by former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert to one of his sexual abuse victims could wind up going to trial following a ruling Tuesday by a Kendall County judge.
Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer denied requests by both sides to decide the case without a trial, pointing in a seven-page opinion to the victim’s decision to disclose his deal with Hastert to family and friends.
“He needed to keep it secret,” Pilmer wrote. “He breached that obligation by continuing to discuss it with his family members, as well as with a friend from high school.”
Court records show attorneys are due back in court Friday. A trial has been set for November, records show.
The civil case brought by Hastert’s victim — who is referred to as “James Doe” in the lawsuit — has been simmering in Kendall County ever since the spring of 2016. The victim filed it just before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin handed Hastert a 15-month prison sentence for a financial crime revolving around the sexual abuse.
During that sentencing hearing in Chicago’s federal courthouse, Hastert admitted 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 agreed in 2010 to pay his victim $3.5 million in hush money to keep quiet about the abuse allegations. Hastert’s suspicious bank withdrawals as he worked to make good on that deal eventually caught the attention of federal investigators.
The FBI confronted Hastert before he could make good on the hush-money deal. He paid $1.7 million to the victim. The victim then sued in 2016 for the remaining $1.8 million.
In his ruling Tuesday, Pilmer referred to “undisputed facts” that, “while perhaps sensational, are rather straightforward.” Hastert and his victim did not put their agreement in writing, he wrote. The victim agreed “to keep his accusations of what he considered to be misconduct confidential,” according to the judge, along with the deal itself.
Hastert agreed to pay the $3.5 million, making periodic cash payments of $50,000.
The victim had spoken to his father, brother and a therapist before striking the deal, the judge wrote. Afterward, the victim disclosed it to his wife, father and brother, the judge said. He also told a high school friend. The judge said he “also discussed matters” with his brother-in law, whose wife then found out about it.
The victim interpreted the deal 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 the judge added, “these are additional terms which were not discussed by the parties.”
“Perhaps it was his subjective understanding, but his subjective understanding is not the intent of the parties,” the judge wrote.