Ex-House Speaker Hastert Sued By Sex Abuse Victim Over Hush Money

Apr 26, 2016
Originally published on April 26, 2016 7:32 am
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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And I'm Lourdes Garcia-Navarro with the story of a former high school wrestler. We will not be referring to him by name. That's because he says he was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of his coach.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The coach, Dennis Hastert, became a congressman, then speaker of the House. Hastert is awaiting his sentence for his attempts to cover up his past conduct.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now that unnamed former wrestler has filed a lawsuit seeking almost $2 million. He says Hastert promised to pay him that money to keep quiet, and now he wants it. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: The man identified in the lawsuit only as James Doe knew Denny Hastert quite well, according to his attorney, Kristi Brown.

KRISTI BROWN: The former speaker of the House was a personal family friend of my client's family, and that's how he knew him originally.

SCHAPER: At the time, the late 1960s and '70s, Hastert was the beloved and respected wrestling coach at Yorkville High School about 50 miles west of Chicago. James Doe was just 14, attending a wrestling camp with Hastert and the Yorkville teen.

Alone in a motel room with Hastert, Doe claims the man Republicans nationwide would affectionately call coach molested him, causing him decades of harm.

BROWN: The injuries to him include, you know, things like panic attacks, depression, some severe emotional that distress as he's undergone as a result of this.

SCHAPER: The plaintiff says he needed long-term psychiatric treatment and found it difficult to hold down a job. In 2008, after Hastert left public office, the plaintiff discovered he wasn't the only one Hastert had abused. So James Doe confronted the ex-speaker. Brown says Hastert with acknowledged what he had done.

BROWN: They had a contract - an oral contract - to compensate my client for the abuse. The agreed-upon amount was $3.5 million. Mr. Hastert has only paid 1.7 million of that and has stopped making payments.

SCHAPER: Brown confirms her client is Individual A in the federal indictment charging Hastert with illegally structuring bank withdrawals to make the payoffs. The lawsuit claims breach of contract and seeks the rest of the money Hastert promised plus interest. Hastert initially told FBI agents he was the victim of extortion by Individual A. Attorney Kristi Brown says federal authorities investigated and found that not to be true.

BROWN: They listened in on conversations between the two with Mr. Hastert wearing a wire, and they concluded that my client was just simply seeking compensation for the injuries caused by Mr. Hastert.

SCHAPER: Hastert pleaded guilty to the financial charge. The 74-year-old faces up to six months in prison when he is sentenced in Chicago's federal court tomorrow. James Doe will not testify at Hastert's sentencing hearing, but at least one other former wrestler will.

Federal prosecutors say Hastert sexually abused at least five teenage boys when he coached wrestling before being elected to public office. His attorneys declined to comment on the lawsuit, but in a previous statement, defense lawyer Thomas Green said, quote, "Mr. Hastert acknowledges that he has committed transgressions for which he is profoundly sorry." David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.