Dennis Hastert’s Insane Attempt At Recovering Millions
January 24, 2017 (Fault Lines) — Oral contracts, as the saying goes, aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Oral contracts involving an exchange of money to stop allegations of sexual assault reaching the media are even less favored. That’s why the bizarre lawsuit from an unnamed student who accused disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of sexual assault, and Hastert’s response, is ridiculous.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin sentenced Dennis Hastert to fifteen months imprisonment in April of 2016 for illegally structuring bank transactions. This was in an attempt to quiet a person only known as “Individual A” from speaking to anyone about alleged sexual misconduct Hastert committed as Yorkville High School’s wrestling coach. Hastert and Individual A agreed on a sum of $3.5 million, and Hastert made good on his word to the tune of $1.7 million before the feds came knocking.
Dennis Hastert’s bank transactions drew federal scrutiny because of a law called the “Bank Secrecy Act,” which makes it a crime to withdraw or deposit funds with the intent to conceal illegal activity. When people start withdrawing certain amounts of money, it generates something called a “Suspicious Activity Report,” or SAR. If enough SARs generate to the point where federal agents think criminal activity’s afoot, someone’s going to get questioned.
Hastert’s answers to those questions ended with his guilty plea in last year. Prosecutors initially recommended a six-month prison sentence. Judge Durkin would have none of that, labeling Hastert a “serial child molester” before tacking on nine more months, a $250,000 fine, two years of supervised release, and enrollment in a sex offender treatment program.
Adding insult to injury, “Individual A” sued Hastert for the remaining $1.8 million, claiming it was compensation for the alleged molestation. In response, Hastert claimed through counsel there was no contract in place for compensation, and if there was a contract, “Individual A” broke it by speaking to the FBI. The appropriate response, according to Hastert, is a return of the $1.7 million and payment of Hastert’s attorney fees.
If you’re scratching your head at this point, don’t worry. You’re not alone. A defendant in a civil suit involving allegations of criminal conduct denies wrongdoing, claims the plaintiff did nothing wrong, and then demands a return of funds paid out for an arrangement that allegedly never existed. Welcome to the legal system.
Unpacking this strange scenario begins with understanding blackmail. Demanding someone pay you money to keep quiet from revealing a violation of the law is a crime. If Hastert told Individual A to pound sand, and Individual A went to the authorities, Hastert wouldn’t see a day in jail because the statute of limitations on the alleged sexual assault had expired. The former speaker’s claims of extortion might even have more teeth if he’d let Individual A go public.
Hastert was a player in Washington, though, and sex scandals are the sort of thing that end careers and topple Presidential campaigns. Sex scandals involving children and politicians are the sort that cause gunmen to walk into a pizza place to “ask questions.” It’s completely understandable why Dennis Hastert would pay someone off to stop molestation allegations from appearing above the fold on every major newspaper.
Where Hastert erred was in attempting to hide the payments so no one would ask questions when $1.7 million went missing from his bank account. “Individual A’s” mistake was in attempting to recoup the remaining $1.8 million in a civil lawsuit where an incarcerated 75-year-old never directly admitted to molesting children. Both parties have violated the Gambler’s rules of ethics, articulated decades ago by Kenny Rogers.
Individual A is best served by walking away at this point. He’s already a millionaire from the money Hastert paid him to keep quiet. If he’s really concerned about Hastert seeing punishment for past misdeeds, the guy’s in jail. Attempting to go after nearly $2 million for alleged “compensation” is going to be difficult to prove, and a civil judge might not be as inclined as Judge Durkin to make Dennis Hastert write a check.
Hastert needs to keep his mouth shut and take the $1.7 million loss. Any more statements like the ones already articulated are the kind that get federal prosecutors drooling over the potential for new criminal charges. While the statute of limitations might have expired for sexual assault, there’s no doubt an AUSA is watching this public quibble, taking notes to see if he or she can make a career by piling on the former Speaker of the House.
This is a messy case, one that reeks of greed and an overzealous plaintiff attempting to bite one too many times at a perceived trillion dollar apple. Dennis Hastert’s refusal to shut up just makes the entire case even worse for all parties involved. None of the attorneys in this case seem to understand the definition of “pragmatism” as far as civil suits and money are concerned. It’s time, to paraphrase the Gambler, to count the money, because the dealing’s done.