Ex-student files lawsuit against Hastert in attempt to collect remaining $1.8M in 'hush money'

The $1.8 million is the remainder of $3.5 million the claimant says Hastert promised to pay in exchange for his not going public with abuse accusations.
By Doug G. Ware  |  Updated April 25, 2016 at 5:57 PM
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YORKVILLE, Ill., April 25 (UPI) -- A man who claims former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert molested him at an Illinois high school during the 1970s has filed a lawsuit against the former congressman for breach of contract -- an attempt to collect nearly $2 million he says Hastert owes him for not going public with abuse accusations.

The plaintiff, called "James Doe" in the new lawsuit and referred to as Individual A in the federal indictment, claims Hastert agreed in 2010 to pay him $3.5 million to keep the allegations from going public. The former student says Hastert has already paid him $1.7 million, but not the $1.8 million still outstanding.

Hastert said he agreed to make the payment to settle "past misconduct" against that person -- but the Illinois Republican has never admitted to committing any sexual abuse. He attracted the attention of the FBI in late 2014 for making numerous cash transactions in amounts less than $10,000 -- the threshold at which banks are required by law to report them -- to pay off the former student.

Hastert pleaded guilty last year to charges of fraud and lying to federal agents, and is awaiting sentencing, set for Wednesday. Sex abuse charges, though, are not part of the case.

Prosecutors recommend six months in prison, while Hastert's lawyers are asking for probation.

Earlier this month, court records indicated that Individual A was still trying to collect the $1.8 million, plus statutory interest -- a suggestion confirmed by Monday's suit.

"My client absolutely performed everything he promised to perform," Kristi Browne, the individual's attorney, said. "He absolutely has fulfilled his part of the bargain."

Defense attorneys did not immediately comment on the new lawsuit, but argued earlier this month that Hastert deserves nothing more than probation due to his deteriorating health and substantial remorse.

"Mr. Hastert feels deep regret and remorse for his actions decades ago and is prepared to accept the consequences," defense attorney Thomas Green wrote in a plea to the court. "He understands, accepts, and admits that he violated the law."

Prosecutors have said Hastert sexually abused five students while he was a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School during the 1970s, before he entered politics. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 20 years -- eight, between 1999 and 2007, as house speaker.

"James Doe" claims he was abused by Hastert when he was 14 years old at a motel during a trip to wrestling camp.

Hastert, 74, who faces a maximum of five years in prison, told federal investigators last year that he was being extorted by the former student with false sex abuse allegations. After listening to a recorded phone call between the two, though, FBI agents said they doubted Hastert's claims that he was being wrongly accused.

U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin could sentence Hastert to more than the six months prosecutors are asking for if he believes the payoffs amounted to extortion.

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