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Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert could face hush money trial

Former Hastert student seeks $1.8M – plus interest – to secure his silence

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert could stand trial in November in a hush-money lawsuit
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert could stand trial in November in a hush-money lawsuit

YORKVILLE – Former Republican U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert could stand trial in November in a hush-money lawsuit brought by a former student he coached who had accused him of sexual abuse.

In denying both sides motions for summary judgment, Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer cited issues of fact in the case as opposed to issues of law in his written order filed Sept. 10.

"Summary judgment is not appropriate where material facts are disputed, or if material facts are undisputed where reasonable persons may draw different inferences from undisputed facts," Pilmer said.

The order means the case may go to trial in November.

The lawsuit, filed by a man identified as James Doe, accused Hastert of sexually abusing him when Hastert was a teacher and he was a student at Yorkville High School.

Doe alleged that he worked out a $3.5 million hush-money agreement with Hastert, who then reneged on the deal.

Hastert allegedly paid Doe $1.7 million between 2010 and 2014, according to court documents.

Doe sued Hastert for the balance, $1.8 million plus interest, according to court documents.

Their hush-money arrangement ultimately led to federal banking charges against the Hastert, now a resident of Plano. In 2016, Hastert pleaded guilty and served 13 months in federal prison.

Scott Cross, a former Yorkville High School student and brother of former Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross, spoke at the sentencing hearing. Scott Cross said that he had been molested by Hastert decades ago and that he was “devastated” by the abuse.

In sentencing Hastert, federal Judge Thomas Durkin referred to the former Speaker of the House as a "serial child molester."

John Ellis, Hastert's lawyer, said Doe didn’t file the lawsuit in good faith because he breached the contract, which allegedly required strict confidentiality without exceptions.

Ellis said Doe disclosed the existence and subject matter to his wife and therapist in 2010 and also told his father, brother, friend and wife’s sister’s brother about the agreement thereafter.

Pilmer wrote in his order that any discussions Doe had about what happened between him and Hastert before the agreement was made are not relevant to the court.

However, Pilmer said Doe was obligated to not discuss it further.

"He needed to keep it secret," Pilmer said. "He breached that obligation by continuing to discuss it with his family members, as well as with a friend from high school. It is also evident that at least one person with whom he discussed the existence of the agreement redisclosed the information to others."

Peter Evans, one of Doe’s lawyers, had said confidential agreements usually allow for involved parties to disclose the existence of an agreement.

Evans said Doe disclosing the existence of the agreement to those six people was all that happened and that Doe only told law enforcement about the agreement when the FBI asked him about the payments in 2015.

Pilmer wrote in the order that Black's Law Dictionary defines "confidential" as a legal term "meant to be kept secret."

Pilmer wrote that Doe could not change the meaning of the confidential nature of the agreement to mean he doesn't file suit, doesn't go to the police, doesn't go to news media and makes sure the claim doesn't become public knowledge.

"These are additional terms which were not discussed by the parties," Pilmer said.

Hastert was a congressman in the 14th District from 1987 to 2007, serving portions of Kane, DeKalb, Kendall, McHenry, Lake, DuPage and Will counties. During that time, Hastert maintained a district office in Batavia.

Hastert was U.S. House Speaker from 1999 to 2007, the longest-serving Speaker in nearly 100 years. Hastert taught at Yorkville High School and coached wrestling there from 1965 to 1981.

All parties are due back in court 1 p.m. Sept. 13. Jury selection for the case is currently scheduled for Nov. 13 with the trial to commence on Nov. 18.

– Brenda Schory contributed to this report

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