CHICAGO – Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is expected to answer questions under oath this summer as part of an explosive lawsuit brought by a former wrestler he coached decades ago whose sexual abuse allegations led to the disgraced politician’s dark past being brought to light.
During a brief court hearing Tuesday, Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer urged both sides in the long-simmering litigation to complete depositions and other remaining discovery issues by the next court date. The judge said he’s eager to set a trial date if lawyers do not reach a settlement by Aug. 20.
“We’re going to do our best to follow the judge’s order,” said attorney Peter Evans, who represents the victim, known as Individual A in the federal criminal case.
Hastert, 76, has kept a low profile since he was released from a federal prison in Minnesota last July. He served 13 months for violating banking regulations to cover up the sexual abuse of teenage boys during the 1960s and 1970s when he was a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in Illinois.
The victim behind the suit also will be deposed. Neither he nor Hastert has appeared in court during the more than 2 years since the suit was filed. The former high school standout wrestler, whose parents were close friends with Hastert, is suing for $1.8 million plus interest in the breach-of-contract claim.
The man contends that Hastert agreed in 2010 to pay him $3.5 million if he didn’t publicly disclose that Hastert had molested him in the 1970s. The boy was 14 when the sexual abuse took place during a wrestling trip while the two stayed overnight in a hotel room, the victim alleges. Payments, however, stopped in late 2014 after banking officials alerted federal authorities about the suspicious withdrawals.
In all, federal prosecutors alleged five former students accused Hastert of having inappropriate sexual contact with them, typically during post-workout massages at the school.
Hastert was never charged with child sexual abuse – authorities noted the statute of limitations had long expired. But he did plead guilty in October 2015 to one count of illegally structuring $950,000 in bank withdrawals to avoid federal reporting requirements. In the plea deal, a politician who was once two heartbeats away from the presidency admitted he made the withdrawals to pay Individual A to hide his wrongdoing.
The victim alleges he has suffered panic attacks, unemployment, bouts of depression and psychiatric treatment throughout his lifetime, according to the suit.
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