Attorney Says Hastert Changed Story

The attorney for a man known as “James Doe” in court documents has filed a motion in Kendall County court, accusing disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of backtracking on his admitted molestation of her client during his tenure as wrestling coach at Yorkville High School.

Attorney Kristi Browne represents Doe, Hastert’s original accuser, in a civil case demanding the balance of hush-money payments the former speaker promised Doe to keep his story secret. As part of that case, she questioned Hastert in a deposition last September. 

“Hastert denied the truth of the very admissions that the court had determined Hastert would be ‘hard pressed to deny,’” Browne wrote. “Hastert said that his attorneys, Sidley Austin, had written those statements and advised him to make them, in order to get the plea deal he wanted, but that he did not agree with some of them and did not even understand others.” 

The motion was intended to be filed under seal and a companion public version was heavily redacted. But in an un-redacted version, obtained from the Kendall County court file by NBC5 Investigates, Hastert details the back-and-forth negotiations he had with Doe, prior to agreeing to pay him $3.5 million to guarantee his silence. 

“In the first meeting he said to me, ‘I’m a greedy little bastard,’” Hastert said. “I asked him what do you mean by that. He said, well, I want three and a half million dollars.” 

“He asked me if my son, who had just run for congress, whether he was going to run for congress again,” Hastert said. “He asked me if I was afraid of going to jail.” 

In the deposition, Hastert gave conflicting versions of what he had promised, at times saying he told Doe he could not come up with that kind of money, and at others admitting it was the promised amount. Several large payoffs, he said, were made in the parking lot of a Menards home improvement store. 

But in her motion, Browne notes what happened next---when Hastert was asked directly about her client’s allegations in those initial meetings.

Hastert said he was afraid Doe was about to go public. 

“At that time did you believe those accusations to be accurate,” Browne asked. 

“No,” Hastert said. “Because my interpretation is that he asked me for—he told me he had a groin pull and asked me to work on it, and I did.” 

“If it was your conclusion that his accusations were not true, why did you pay him?” Browne asked.

“I think that 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. So anything that was—anybody that had a political background, anything that came up all of a sudden became a press circus. And I didn’t want to expose my family to that, and so I was under stress and I agreed to pay him.” 

Shown his plea agreement where he spoke of misconduct with Doe, Hastert insisted all he ever did was treat a groin pull. 

“Did you ever acknowledge that plaintiff had been harmed by the incident in the hotel room?” Browne asked. 

“No,” Hastert replied. 

Asked about his sentencing memorandum, which said he felt overwhelmed by the guilt he felt for his actions and the harm caused by his misconduct, Hastert indicated he agreed to the statement for legal reasons. 

“I didn’t have any choice,” he said. “I wanted to structure a plea agreement and get it over with.” 

In fact, Hastert disputed the very statement he read in federal court, apologizing for his behavior. 

“So you lied to the Court?” Browne asked. 

“Well, I think we put it together in consultation with my attorneys, but they wrote it,” Hastert said. 

In that statement, Hastert said, “I know I’m here because I mistreated some of my athletes that I coached, and because I structured withdrawals from the bank in the hope of keeping mistreatment hidden.” 

“So the statement you read was false?” Browne asked. 

“Well,” Hastert replied, “I’m not sure that my view of it was the same as the people that wrote it.” 

In her Kendall County filing, an outraged Browne indicated she plans to go back to Federal Judge Thomas Durkin, indeed that she has a legal responsibility to do so. 

“Hastert, in his deposition, appears to have committed perjury either in this forum or in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois,” she said. “Plaintiff’s counsel proposes to submit the testimony to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Probation Department…that had been supervising Hastert’s supervised release at the time of the perjury, and to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin.” 

She also said she intends to use the information to obtain information which is currently under seal in Federal Court. 

A hearing on the matter is scheduled in Kendall County on Friday.

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