The Dennis Hastert case appears to be headed for trial.
If that happens, Hastert's publicity-shy accuser, the man who exposed the former Speaker and caused his stellar political image to come crashing down, will almost certainly have to step into the spotlight.
The disgraced former House Speaker is the target of a lawsuit, filed by that man, known in court documents as James Doe, who says Hastert still owes him $1.8 million in hush money. Hastert admitted in criminal proceedings that he agreed to pay the man $3.5 million to keep quiet about past sexual abuse in the seventies when Hastert was his high school wrestling coach.
After $1.7 million in payments, the deal was interrupted when banking regulators became suspicious of Hastert’s large bank withdrawals.
On Wednesday in Kendall County, Judge Robert Pilmer clarified a prior ruling denying Hastert’s efforts to have the case thrown out before trial. In that ruling last month, Pilmer indicated Doe did appear to have breached the agreement by telling a few friends and family members about his arrangement with the former Speaker. But he said it will be up to the jury to decide whether that constituted a "material" breach which was serious enough to be a deal-breaker in the unwritten agreement.
Pilmer said on Wednesday that Hastert left no question during his criminal sentencing that he had made the deal with Doe.
"He acknowledged the existence of his agreement with Individual A," the judge said. "While it’s true that the plaintiff has breached the agreement, this all came about because of the defendant’s actions."
Doe’s attorney Christy Browne made clear from the beginning that her client was not enthusiastic about being publicly identified, even going so far as to request at one point that the matters be held behind closed doors. Pilmer shot that request down out-of-hand.
That hope for confidentiality, she said Wednesday, will not prevent her client from pressing his case.
"No, he wants the case to go forward," she said, indicating that if the matter goes to trial she expects her client to testify.
Most matters of this nature settle prior to trial, but Browne indicated that is not imminent.
"At this time it appears it's going to trial," she said. "I assume it will go to trial."