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Crime & Courts

Judge dismisses one of two civil lawsuits against Hastert

Kristi Browne, attorney for Richard Doe, addresses reporters after the hearing Monday morning at the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville where Judge Robert Pilmer ruled to dismiss Doe's lawsuit against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Doe had accused Hastert of sexually abusing him in the early 1970s, but attorneys for Hastert argued that the statute of limitations had run out on such a complaint, and Judge Robert Pilmer agreed. Standing to the right of Browne is fellow Richard Doe attorney Peter Evans.
Kristi Browne, attorney for Richard Doe, addresses reporters after the hearing Monday morning at the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville where Judge Robert Pilmer ruled to dismiss Doe's lawsuit against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Doe had accused Hastert of sexually abusing him in the early 1970s, but attorneys for Hastert argued that the statute of limitations had run out on such a complaint, and Judge Robert Pilmer agreed. Standing to the right of Browne is fellow Richard Doe attorney Peter Evans.

A Kendall County judge has dismissed one of the two civil lawsuits filed against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Plano.

A plaintiff identified in court documents as Richard Doe had alleged that Hastert molested him in the early 1970s when Hastert was a teacher and coach at Yorkville High School, and that when he went to the state’s attorney’s office in the 1980s to file a complaint about it, he was discouraged from doing so.

Judge Robert Pilmer ruled at a hearing Monday morning in Yorkville that he agreed with Hastert’s attorneys that Richard Doe’s charge in his lawsuit against Hastert was beyond the statute of limitations. Pilmer dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning that it cannot be refiled.

John Ellis, a Chicago attorney representing Hastert, argued in court that the statute of limitations would have began once Richard Doe turned 18, and then two years after that.

Ellis said that by the time Doe came to Kendall County State’s Attorney Dallas Ingemunson in 1984 or 1985, the statute of limitations had run out for criminal prosecution. However, he said Hastert denies the allegations made by Doe.

Attorney Kristi Browne, representing Richard Doe, said after the hearing that she would determine whether or not she would ask Pilmer to reconsider his decision.

“Clearly we’re disappointed,” she said. “We were hoping we would have a chance to go forward. We’ll have to explore our options in terms of a motion to reconsider.”

In the meantime, Browne also is considering filing suit against the Yorkville School District; a hearing on that issue was set for Feb. 23.

“We haven’t made a claim against the school district yet, but we have asked for discovery [documents related to Hastert] in order to investigate the possibility of a claim,” she said. “It’s our position that what happened today doesn’t forgo that process. The school district has been collecting discovery to turn over to us.”

Browne said her argument was that Ingemunson’s alleged statements to her client that he would be sued civilly or charged criminally if he filed a complaint against Hastert would have reset and extend the statute of limitations in the case. Ingemunson has denied ever handling such a complaint.

“It was our argument that that should extend the statute of limitations for our client until such point in time that he was confident enough to come forward with his claim,” Browne said. “Obviously in this case when you’re dealing with someone very powerful, that didn’t really come to light for our client until somebody else, the federal government in fact, indicted him and these facts came to light.”

Browne is also the attorney for James Doe, also a former student of Hastert’s whose $3.5 million hush money arrangement with the former speaker for keeping sex allegations against Hastert a secret ultimately led to federal criminal banking charges against the Plano Republican. James Doe is suing Hastert on a breach of contract charge, saying that Hastert paid him only a portion of the agreed-upon amount.

When Hastert was convicted on federal banking charges in April 2016, the judge in the case called Hastert a “serial child molester,” and Scott Cross, the brother of former state Rep. Tom Cross of Oswego, testified that Hastert abused him in the 1970s when Hastert was his coach. When the judge asked Hastert during his sentencing hearing whether he sexually abused one of his former students specifically, Hastert responded, “Yes.”

Browne said Monday’s ruling by Pilmer does not affect the James Doe case.

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