CHICAGO – A sexual abuse victim of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert who accused the disgraced politician of reneging on a $3.5 million hush-money pact is seeking a protective order to keep many details of his lawsuit confidential.
Attorneys made a brief court appearance early Tuesday before Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer, who delayed imposing a protective order in the case while both sides hammer out specifics.
A lawyer for the victim, identified publicly as the federal government’s Individual A, filed the request late last week. In his response, Hastert agreed that certain documents in the case should remain confidential, but his attorney filed his own draft of a proposed protective order after both sides were unable to agree on certain terms.
The competing drafts, if approved, seek to allow the attorneys to file “documents, testimony and other products of discovery” under seal. Though vague, the information they are seeking to keep confidential pertains to medical, financial, employment and “other litigation materials,” according to the victim’s draft protective order.
His attorney, Kristi Browne, said such orders regarding sensitive information are common in civil cases.
Lawyers are expected back in court in late February on the issue. Though Pilmer allowed Browne’s client to proceed under a fictitious name to protect his identity, the judge’s courtroom demeanor and earlier ruling denying Hastert’s request to ban cameras in the courtroom suggests he favors transparency and open courtroom proceedings.
Hastert, who turned 76 on Tuesday, has not been deposed yet in the breach-of-contract claim. Neither he nor Individual A have appeared in court regarding the suit.
Hastert was released in July from a federal prison in Minnesota after serving nearly 13 months of his 15-month sentence for violating banking regulations to cover up the sexual abuse of teenage boys when he was a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School.
In all, Hastert has been accused publicly of having inappropriate sexual contact with five boys in the 1960s and 1970s.
He has never been charged criminally with child sexual abuse due to the long-expired statute of limitations.
Hastert instead pleaded guilty in October 2015 to one count of illegally structuring $950,000 in bank withdrawals to avoid federal reporting requirements.
He admitted in the plea deal with federal prosecutors that he was making the withdrawals to pay Individual A to hide wrongdoing from his past.
The criminal case against him unfolded four years ago after a Yorkville bank employee noticed the suspicious bank withdrawals. After Hastert was told by bank officials that any withdrawals of $10,000 or more had to be reported to regulators, he began to take out cash in lower increments.
In all, he withdrew $1.7 million over 4 1/2 years, paying Individual A in increments of up to $100,000 in meetings at a Yorkville restaurant parking lot, according to prosecutors.
In December 2014, FBI agents confronted Hastert about the withdrawals. He told them he was trying to keep his money safe, but shortly after that meeting, an attorney representing Hastert called authorities to say the retired politician was a victim of an extortion plot and would cooperate in the investigation.
Agents ultimately determined, however, that Hastert had been paying Individual A, a former Yorkville High school wrestling standout whose parents were Hastert’s close friends, to keep him silent about sexual abuse decades earlier.
Authorities did not reveal the motive behind Hastert’s hush-money payments until long after the 2015 indictment. Tribune reporters learned the identity of Individual A and other victims in early 2016 after contacting scores of former wrestlers and students and filing two dozen open-records requests.
Individual A has repeatedly declined to comment. Browne, his lawyer, said his right to privacy given the “highly sensitive” issues in the case outweighs any public interest in knowing his name.
He accused Hastert of inappropriately touching him during a one-time incident when the then-14-year-old boy attended an overnight wrestling camp and hadn’t yet started high school. According to his lawsuit, he suffered panic attacks for years that led to “periods of unemployment, career changes, bouts of depression, hospitalization and long-term psychiatric treatment.”
He filed suit in April 2016, two days before Hastert’s federal sentencing hearing in which Hastert admitted the sexual abuse. Individual A is suing him for the remaining $1.8 million — plus accrued interest — that he argues Hastert still owes him.
A second man, whose sexual abuse allegation against Hastert was not part of the federal case, also sued Hastert. Pilmer dismissed his claim under an expired statute of limitations, but Browne, who represents that man as well, has asked the judge to reconsider.
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