Disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who admitted to sexually abusing students when he was a high school teacher, could get his taxpayer-funded teacher pension reinstated.
Lawyers for Hastert said he earned his pension from the time he was a teacher at Yorkville High School, even though he admitted to sexually molesting minors during that time. He was never charged because the statute of limitations had expired.
In a letter obtained from the Teachers Retirement System, Hastert’s lawyers said he wasn’t convicted of any crimes committed while he was a teacher at Yorkville High School. Because of that, they said he should be paid back the $222,808 he was forced to return in May. State law says a teacher’s pension can be stripped from them if they are “convicted of any felony relating to or arising out of or in connection with his or her service as a teacher.”
Hastert’s lawyers said in the letter to TRS that his “felony conviction did not relate to or arise out of or in connection to Hastert’s service as a teacher.”
Akerman Law LLP partner Brett Kappell said Hastert’s case is not without merit, but that the law looks as if it favors TRS.
“From the wording of the statute, it looks as though Speaker Hastert’s lawyer does have a legitimate legal argument,” he said. “But the language is very broad, and when courts interpret statutes, they look to the wording of the statutes first.”
Kappell said the judge will not act emotionally, but he acknowledges the broad language in the law allows for a lot of discretion.
“The language of the statute was intended to reflect the community’s outrage that teachers who committed crimes against children could ever receive their pension,” Kappell said.
Before his conviction, Hastert was collecting $125,000 annually from three public pensions. The Illinois General Assembly voted in November to suspend Hastert’s pension benefits from the time he served there.
TRS officials said they do not comment on pending litigation. A date for a hearing has not been set.
–Illinois News Network