A settlement was reached Wednesday in the civil lawsuit against disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, tentatively bringing an end to the yearslong hush money case just days before it was scheduled to go to trial.
Judge Robert Pilmer, chief judge of Illinois’ 23rd Judicial Circuit, which includes Kendall County where the lawsuit was filed, announced Wednesday afternoon that the parties had reached a tentative settlement agreement after attorneys for both sides conferenced together for over an hour ahead of a scheduled court proceeding.
"We’ve reached an agreement in principle, the terms of the agreement are confidential," the plaintiff’s attorney Kristi Browne said after the settlement was announced, adding, "It's just subject to us hammering out a written settlement agreement."
"I can tell that you all the claims between the parties are resolved, will be resolved, subject to the execution of the settlement agreement," she said.
Hastert's attorney John Ellis declined to comment.
"I would have loved to try this case, I think it was a good case," Browne said. "I’ve been, you know, very confident about our case from the beginning, but you know, this is what, you know, we’ve managed to resolve and this is a resolution that my client is comfortable with."
The settlement came less than a week after the judge ruled that the plaintiff, referred to in court filings only as James Doe, would be identified in court for the first time once the trial began. Jury selection was scheduled to begin on Sept. 20.
Hastert, 79, served roughly 85% of a 15-month prison sentence handed down in 2016 after he pleaded guilty to one felony count of the financial crime known as structuring: concealing banking activity by withdrawing large sums of cash in small denominations to avoid federal reporting requirements.
Prosecutors said Hastert broke federal banking rules by obscuring his withdrawals of $1.7 million to pay hush money to a former student he had sexually abused in the 1970s while working as a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School before entering politics.
That individual filed the lawsuit against Hastert in 2016 for breach of contract, seeking the unpaid balance of the $3.5 million total in hush money, about $1.8 million.
Hastert was not charged in connection with any of the allegations of sexual abuse in part because the statute of limitations in Illinois – within three years of the incident or three years after an underage victim turns 18 – had already expired.
When asked if the judge's ruling to name Doe impacted settlement negotiations, Browne said she could not disclose communications with her client. But she later said the settlement came as "a little bit" of a surprise to her.
"Anything can happen at any time, cases can settle but I would have said as of a couple weeks ago I was pretty sure this one was going to trial," she said.
"Let me say this: it’s never over for a victim of childhood sexual abuse. It’s never over. It impacts them for the rest of their lives," Browne said. "This resolves this case. This resolves my client's claims against Mr. Hastert. It resolves Mr. Hastert’s counterclaim against my client and it resolves all of the issues in litigation between them."