By Michael Tarm & Don Babwin
CHICAGO — Imprisoned former House speaker Dennis Hastert wants one of his sexual abuse victims to return the $1.7 million in hush money the Illinois Republican paid him over several years, according to a court filing this week in an ongoing civil case.
The document is a counter claim to the victim’s breach-of-contract lawsuit that he filed last year, arguing that Hastert owed him $1.8 million — what he said was the unpaid balance of an unwritten $3.5 million hush-money deal.
Hastert, 75, is serving a 15-month sentence in a federal prison for violating banking laws as he withdrew thousands of dollars, starting in 2010, to pay the victim, abruptly halting the payments after the FBI interviewed Hastert in late 2014.
Documents in Hastert’s federal criminal case say he abused the victim — referred to in filings only as “Individual A” — when he was 14 in the late 1970s when Hastert coached wrestling at Yorkville High School.
The Wednesday filing on Hastert’s behalf in Kendall County Circuit Court asserts the victim was obliged to keep quiet about their deal “for the remainder of his life.”
“Since Plaintiff breached his obligations … any nonperformance on the part of Defendant (Hastert) is excused,” the filing said. It adds: “Plaintiff’s retention of the $1.7 million is unjust.”
At Hastert’s April sentencing, a federal judge dubbed him “a serial child molester”, saying he sexually abused at least four former students at Yorkville from 1965 to 1981.
A Thursday statement from the victim’s attorney, Kristi Browne, criticized Hastert’s filing.
“Mr. Hastert has decided that rather than live up to his promise to compensate his victim for his molestation and resulting injury, he will ask his victim to pay him,” Browne said.
Federal prosecutors have said Individual A did not threaten to expose Hastert if he didn’t pay, adding they don’t regard the payments as part of an extortion. It was Hastert, they said, who refused Individual A’s request to bring in lawyers and put the deal in writing.
Prosecutors have also said they would have charged Hastert with sexual abuse if they could have. But the statute of limitations expired decades ago, so the only option for offering those abused some semblance of justice, prosecutors said, was to charge him with comparatively mundane banking violations.