Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) on Wednesday reached a tentative settlement with a man who accused him of child sexual abuse, suspending an unusual breach-of-contract lawsuit involving the $3.5 million Hastert agreed to pay the man in 2010. Hastert, 79, stopped the hush-money payments at $1.7 million, after the FBI questioned him in 2014 about large cash withdrawals he was illegally concealing, and the man filed suit in 2016, arguing Hastert still owed him $1.8 million from their verbal agreement.
"The hush-money deal would eventually lead to a federal criminal case against Hastert five years later and to public disgrace for the a GOP stalwart who, for eight years as House speaker, was second in the line of succession to the presidency," The Associated Press notes. Hastert served 15 months in federal prison, but because of expired statutes of limitation, he will face no criminal charges for allegedly sexually abusing the plaintiff, referred to as James Doe, and three other male students ages 14 to 17 when Hastert taught and coached wrestling at Yorkville High School decades ago.
The settlement was announced a day before the civil trial was scheduled to start in an Illinois courtroom outside Chicago. Lawyers for Hastert and Doe declined to give any details on the settlement. "A trial would likely have been emotionally draining for both Hastert and the man he abused, both of whom could have been called to testify," AP reports, and the judge in the case said Doe's real name would have been revealed at the trial.
"Frankly, I was looking forward to the trial," Doe's lawyer, Kristi Browne, said after Wednesday's hearing. "I would have loved to try this case. I think it was a good case. ... But this is a resolution my client is comfortable with."