by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

September 15, 2021

YORKVILLE, IL — Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and a man who accused him of child sexual abuse reached an out-of-court settlement Wednesday over Hastert’s refusal to pay the $1.8 million in hush money, which the Illinois Hastert agreed to pay the man in 2010.

Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, but the settlement reached just days before a civil trial was scheduled to begin.  It would have centered on a novel legal question: whether Hastert’s verbal agreement to pay $3.5 million to buy the silence of a man he abused as a teenager constituted a legally binding contract.

The hush-money deal would eventually lead to a federal criminal case against Hastert five years later, and public disgrace that claims so many Illinois politicians.  Prosecutors in the federal case claimed Hastert sexually abused at least four male students between the ages of 14 and 17 during his tenure at Yorkville High School when Hastert was in his 20s and 30s.

During the criminal proceedings, federal prosecutors stated that the hush-money agreement was entered into voluntarily and that the victim never sought to blackmail Hastert into going public about the abuse.  The abuse occurred when the victim was a high school wrestler and Hastert, now 79, was his coach.

Hastert paid $1.7 million over four years but stopped after the FBI interrogated him in 2014 about illegally concealing large cash withdrawals from his bank.  In 2016, Hastert pleaded guilty to a banking charge and was sentenced to more than a year in prison.  Sexual abuse charges were never filed since the statute of limitations had long since expired.

Following Hastert’s sentencing, the victim filed a breach of contract lawsuit to compel Hastert to pay the outstanding $1.8 million.

When asked if the civil case’s resolution was the end of a long, arduous journey for her client, plaintiff attorney Kristi Browne told reporters outside court, “It’s never over for a victim of childhood sexual abuse . . . It impacts them for the rest of their lives.”

Browne said the parties planned to work out a written agreement over the next few days and notify the judge by Sept. 24 that it was completed.

Frank Conklin, Illinois Political Columnist for The Chicago Times.  Views and comments expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Chicago Times.

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