By Suzannah Gonzales
CHICAGO – A $1.8 million civil lawsuit filed by a victim of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, convicted of a financial crime linked to sexual abuse of high school wrestlers decades ago, can proceed, an Illinois judge ruled on Thursday.
Hastert, 74, once one of the country’s most powerful politicians, was sentenced on Wednesday to 15 months in federal prison. During the sentencing hearing, Hastert acknowledged sexually abusing boys when he was a teacher and coach in his hometown of Yorkville, Illinois.
The victim, identified as James Doe, filed the civil lawsuit in Kendall County Circuit Court in northeastern Illinois, claiming Hastert owes him the unpaid portion of a $3.5 million deal they verbally agreed to in 2008 to compensate him for decades of pain and suffering.
Judge Robert Pilmer ruled at a hearing that Doe is to file within seven days a complaint under seal using his legal name, but that he can proceed under a fictitious name until further ordered by the court.
“We appreciate the Court allowing us to go forward under a fictitious name for now,” Kristi Browne, the attorney for the plaintiff, said in an email. “It’s procedures like this one that make it at least a little easier for victims of abuse to come forward.”
Lawyers for Hastert declined to comment.
Doe said he was 14 when he was molested by Hastert, a trusted family friend, high school teacher and “beloved coach” of the state champion wrestling team in Yorkville.
Since he was charged with a financial crime last year, Hastert’s portrait has been removed from the U.S. Capitol and his name stripped from a policy center at his alma mater, Wheaton College.
More humiliation and financial consequences could follow.
On Thursday, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame said it is considering removing Hastert as an inductee.
Hastert was inducted to the Stillwater, Oklahoma hall twice, once in 1995 and again in 2000, Lee Roy Smith, the hall’s executive director, said. The hall’s governing board will vote early next week on an ethics committee’s recommendation on whether to remove Hastert, Smith said.
Also on Wednesday, Hastert was stripped of his teacher’s pension, ending his $16,622-a-year annuity built up from his 16 years of teaching. Since 1997, Hastert has received $237,045 in teacher pension payments.
Illinois State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant on Thursday called for Hastert to be stripped of all taxpayer-funded pensions from previous jobs.