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Crime & Courts

Judge limits time frame for discovery in Hastert-Doe lawsuit

Attorney Kristi Browne, who is representing James Doe in a lawsuit against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, addresses reporters after a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Attorney Kristi Browne, who is representing James Doe in a lawsuit against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, addresses reporters after a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 19.

A Kendall County judge has limited the time frame of documents that can be reviewed by lawyers for a man accusing former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of sexual abuse.

James Doe, a Hastert accuser whose hush-money agreement led to federal criminal banking charges against the once-powerful Republican from Plano, is seeking the rest of the funds allegedly agreed upon between himself and Hastert.

Doe, known as "Individual A" during Hastert's criminal trial, and Hastert agreed on a $3.5 million payout, but Hastert paid him $1.7 million.

Doe's attorneys have requested documents going back to the time Hastert was a teacher and coach at Yorkville High School in the mid-1960s to present day. However, Hastert's attorney, John Ellis, argued in court Thursday morning that the case should focus on the time frame related only to the agreement, since the lawsuit is a breach of contract lawsuit.

Kristi Browne, an attorney representing Doe, said she had requested documents including communications between Hastert and her client, but that Hastert's attorneys had not responded.

"To me, there's nothing over-broad or unreasonable about asking for any and all communications with my client, communications about my client, documents regarding payments to my client," Browne said. "I just think that it's unreasonable for (defense) counsel to not attempt, not even attempt, to respond to any of these discovery requests."

Browne said Hastert, through his attorneys, refused to admit or deny that he was a family friend of her client or that he took her client to a wrestling camp.

"I have to take discovery as to my client being molested because Mr. Hastert won't admit or deny it," Browne said. "And that means looking for other people who might be able to substantiate my client's allegations. And that goes back, as far as we know, as long as he was a high school wrestling coach, and that's the date we've chosen."

At the end of the hearing, Judge Robert Pilmer agreed with Ellis and limited the time frame to Jan. 1, 2008 onward.

Pilmer told Browne he understood that "the initial conduct between your conduct and the defendant is certainly not only unlawful but heinous given the age of the parties at the time, and the nature of their relationship" but that it's a "breach of contract action for your client."

After the hearing, outside of the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville, Browne explained why she wanted discovery and evidence going back to the 1960s.

"It was my theory that if we could show a pattern and practice of behavior, that might be helpful to showing that this actually happened to my client, although the breach of contract happened later, " she said. "Mr. Hastert has not admitted or denied in this proceeding that my client was actually molested, so I feel like that's something I may need to prove at trial, and one of the ways you can prove that is by a pattern and practice of behavior. But the judge has trimmed us so we're not going to be allowed to ask those questions in this case."

Browne, however, doesn't think it "inhibits" their case.

"This is a situation where we had a contract in 2008, so the judge has asked us at least in the initial go-round has limited us to that time frame," she said.

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