A day after the attorney for a man known as "James Doe" claimed that disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert backtracked on his admitted molestation of her client, new details are emerging about how, and why, Hastert made thousands of dollars in payments to the unnamed man.
It was in either 2009 or 2010 that Hastert says a young man from his past appeared at his office.
In excerpts of a sworn deposition filed in a civil lawsuit, obtained by NBC5, Hastert said he couldn’t remember for sure exactly what year it was. But he did remember what transpired during that first meeting.
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“He was telling me that he had a lot of problems, he was just fired from his job, that he was drinking, that he had problems with his wife,” Hastert said. “And he also said that I had inappropriate contact with him in a motel room in Colorado.”
(Later, Hastert would clarify that the incident in question happened in Virginia).
That man’s allegations would eventually destroy Hastert’s one-time stellar reputation. When a payoff scheme was discovered by the FBI, it was revealed that the former speaker had been sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to his former student to guarantee his silence about an alleged sex abuse incident when Hastert was the man’s wrestling coach in the '70s. Others came forward with similar allegations.
Hastert would eventually plead guilty to financial violations related to the payoffs, and was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
In the deposition, which counsel has said was mistakenly left unsealed as part of a motion filed in Kendall County Circuit Court, Hastert said he had known his accuser, known in court proceedings as James Doe, “in excess of 40 years,” since the time he was a wrestler at Yorkville High School. He said knew the man’s parents, and had even vacationed with them and hosted them at a Super Bowl party.
In that first meeting, Hastert suggested his accuser was blunt.
“'I’m a greedy little bastard,'” he says the man told him. “He said, well, I want three-and-a half million dollars.”
After that initial meeting, Hastert said he met with the man again about 10 days later.
“He made a demand for three-and-a-half million dollars,” Hastert said. “He asked if my son, who had just run for Congress, whether he was going to run for Congress again.”
“He asked me if I was afraid of – afraid of going to jail, those types of insinuations,” Hastert continued. “As far as the money goes, I said I don’t have three-and-a-half million dollars. He said he wanted it in a briefcase or in a satchel, cash.”
But Hastert said he wanted to make sure the allegations were not aired in public.
“I was concerned about my son’s political career, if he wanted to pursue it,” Hastert said. And he indicated that he was aware that Doe’s brother had already been told of the allegations.
“I think from my understanding, it was he and his brother that thought this thing up,” Hastert said. “That’s what he told me.”
According to Hastert, the meetings between the two continued. The third time, in the parking lot outside Hastert’s office.
“He wanted money,” Hastert said. “And I said it’s probably I could give him $50,000.”
Hastert said the next time the two met, some six weeks to two months later, it was in the parking lot of a Menard’s home store. During that meeting, he says he paid Doe another $50,000:
Kristi Browne, Doe's lawyer: “Why did you pay him anything?”
Hastert: “Because I was afraid he was going to go public."
Browne: “Go public with what?”
Hastert: “Accusations. That—his claim, his accusation that I molested him in a motel room.”
Browne: “At that time, did you believe those accusations to be accurate?”
Hastert: "No. He told me he had a groin pull and asked me to work on it, and I did.”
That apparent denial, Hastert’s contention that he never molested Doe, is the focus of the new motion to be heard Friday in Kendall County Circuit Court. And it comes in stark contrast, to the contrition he expressed when he was sentenced in federal court.
“I wanted to apologize for the boys I mistreated when I was their coach,” Hastert said during that 2016 hearing. “What I did was wrong and I regret it. They looked to me, and I took advantage of them.”
Browne says she wants to take Hastert’s new denials back to that very court. To do so, she is asking for permission to expand a current protective order to transmit the former speaker’s new denials to federal prosecutors, probation officials, and the court.
“If it was your conclusion that his accusations were not true, why did you pay him?” Browne asked during her questioning of Hastert.
“I think there was a political issue there,” Hastert replied. “I watched the circus around Blagojevich. I saw the circus around Ryan. I saw the circus around Ted Stevens. I saw the circus around Scooter Libby.”
Hastert said he didn’t want to expose his family to that type of scrutiny, “I was under stress, and I agreed to pay him.”
The deposition indicates that while Hastert maintained that he could not afford the young man’s demand for $3.5 million, that eventually became the accepted number.
“I said I would pay three and a half million,” Hastert said. “I would pay incremental amounts up to three and a half million dollars.”
The meetings continued, Hastert said, approximately every six weeks. Then Doe told him he didn’t want to travel from where he was in another state, and the rotation changed to every three months.
Hastert said during that period, at least one payoff occurred at Doe’s house. “That was because I couldn’t contact him on his phone.”
And he indicated that in his mind, he was being blackmailed.
“He implied that this could go public if I didn’t pay him.”
While Hastert was charged with a crime of “structuring” withdrawals to avoid attracting the attention of banking regulators, Doe was never charged with any crime.
There came a point where the payments increased to $100,000. Hastert said he could not recall how many times he paid that amount. At one time there was even a discussion of payments in stock.
“But the stock had no value,” he said. “So we couldn’t do it.”
It all changed, Hastert said, in 2014.
“I said I couldn’t do it anymore,” he said, after the FBI approached him, asking about his excessive withdrawals from area banks. Indeed, agents were listening in during that conversation.
“They kept handing me notes, and I read whatever they gave me,” he said.
At that point, Hastert had paid Doe in excess of $1.7 million.
Now, Doe is demanding the balance of the $3.5 million he says the disgraced former speaker agreed to pay. The lawsuit stemming from that demand, is set to go to trial Nov. 18.