Judge: Man suing Hastert can remain anonymous for now
CHICAGO (AP) - One day after a man publicly revealed himself as a sexual abuse victim of Dennis Hastert, a judge ruled Thursday that another victim does not have to reveal his name in a lawsuit that contends the former U.S. House Speaker hasn't paid all the money promised in exchange for his silence.
But Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer did not rule out requiring the man, known in federal court documents as Individual A, to be identified in the future. Pilmer also wants the lawsuit refiled, under seal, with the man's name on it.
The brief hearing involving the man, who is at the center of the hush-money case that brought down Hastert — once one of the most powerful politicians in the nation — stood in stark contrast with Wednesday's dramatic hearing, which ended with Hastert receiving a 15-month federal stint.
In that packed Chicago courtroom, Scott Cross, the brother of a once-powerful Illinois politician, said Hastert, who sat just a few feet away in a wheelchair, had molested him when he was a wrestler at Yorkville High School and Hastert was his coach. After decades of silence, he said that he ultimately decided to speak publicly after he learned Hastert had reached out to his brother, Tom Cross, for a letter to the judge asking for leniency.
There was no such drama Thursday; neither Hastert nor Individual A attended the brief hearing in the northern Illinois community of Yorkville in a courthouse blocks from the high school.
At the same time, the effort to keep the man's name from being made public did, in a much quieter way, underscore a point that Cross made when he spoke about how he continues to suffer sleepless nights and has sought professional help: The decades-old abuse continues to haunt the victims.
"It would cause psychological problems for my client if his name came out," Individual A's attorney, Kristi L. Browne, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "He's a very private person."
Even the judge's order to include the man's name in the file, she said, is cause for concern because it puts his name in a court document, even though it would be sealed.
"I have no reason to believe the Kendall County clerk's office would leak anything, but things get leaked all the time," she said.
The man, under the name "James Doe," filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit Monday, contending that Hastert still owes him $1.8 million of the $3.5 million he agreed to pay him to remain quiet about sexual abuse he says happened when he was 14.
In his lawsuit, the man said he confronted Hastert after learning in 2008 that he was not the only victim. He said Hastert agreed to compensate him for "pain, suffering and harm" he'd caused and began paying him in 2010 before the payments stopped in late 2014.
Pilmer indicated Thursday that a reason he wanted to know the man's name was to make sure there is no conflict of interest. The case is scheduled to return to court July 25.