An attorney for Dennis Hastert has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by one of the former U.S. House speaker’s sexual abuse victims who is seeking $1.8 million in outstanding hush-money payments from the imprisoned Illinois Republican.
The filing this month in Kendall County Circuit Court argues, among other things, that the accuser not only missed a deadline by which he needed to take legal action but also that he violated a verbal agreement with Hastert by speaking to federal investigators about the molestation.
A hearing in the civil case was scheduled for Monday, though the judge wasn’t expected to immediately rule on the motion to dismiss.
Hastert is serving a 15-month sentence at a federal prison in Rochester, Minnesota, for violating federal banking law as he attempted to pay a total of $3.5 million to silence the victim, who isn’t named in the state lawsuit and was referred to only as “Individual A” in the federal criminal case.
The victim filed the breach-of-contract suit in April, just days before Hastert reported to prison, claiming Hastert paid $1.7 million during a four-year period, but abruptly halted the payments after U.S. agents first questioned Hastert in late 2014 about his massive cash withdrawals.
Hastert attorney John Ellis argued in a July 15 response to Judge Robert Pilmer that the lawsuit was filed beyond the statute of limitations and that the man broke the agreement when he told authorities about the abuse, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.
Harold Krent is dean at Chicago-Kent College of Law. He says a statute of limitations doesn’t exist for a breach of contract like this one.
“The judge will probably lean towards finding the agreement to be legal, except for the fraud issue and if there had been extortion,” he said.
Federal prosecutors have portrayed the deal not as extortion but as something akin to an out-of-court settlement. The man never threatened Hastert and he actually pushed for their agreement to be formalized in documents drawn up by lawyers, they said. It was Hastert who insisted no one else become involved.
The lawsuit says the man was 14 when Hastert sexually abused him in a motel room. The suit says he later suffered panic attacks, leading to periods of unemployment, bouts of depression and long-term psychiatric treatment.
Prosecutors said Hastert sexually molested at least four students dating back to when he coached at Yorkville High School, from 1965 to 1981. The statutes of limitation on sex-abuse charges long since ran out and prosecutors said their best option for holding Hastert accountable was to charge him with the banking violations.
Messages seeking comments from attorneys in the civil case weren’t returned Monday.