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Crime & Courts

Doe v. Hastert July jury trial canceled, pushed further back because of COVID-19

YORKVILLE – The jury trial for a civil $1.8 million breach-of-contract case between former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and a man known as James Doe once again has been pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer said the trial that was previously delayed until July may now be pushed back yet again because of social distancing concerns with the size of the court's jury assembly room. He said the courts are not trying any civil matters before the end of September, meaning they would be tried in October or beyond.

Pilmer said he anticipates criminal trials, which are set to be tried starting next month, including calling about 40 or 50 jurors for one case at a time, as opposed the usual estimated 100 jurors for multiple cases during the court's jury week. Because of the notoriety of James Doe v. Hastert civil case, he said, the court might call about twice as many jurors.

Pilmer said there still are a lot of moving parts in the courts figuring out their new normal going forward with the pandemic still happening. He said he knows everyone involved in the case, himself included, are anxious to have the trial.

"The only thing I can tell you with any degree of certainty is we're not going to have a jury trial in July," Pilmer said.

The update comes after Pilmer heard during a March 13 hearing three dozen motions in limine from Doe's attorney Kristi Browne, and John Ellis, who is representing Hastert, to determine what information can be included during the civil trial. It also followed Pilmer overruling objections from Kristi Browne, lawyer for Doe, in allowing Hastert's counsel to pursue the out-of-state witnesses during a March 2 hearing.

A list of witnesses that are anticipated to be investigated the week of March 2 was not provided within court documents.

Ellis mentioned Doe's brother-in-law, who may be one of the out-of-state witnesses, has been disclosed as a potential witness for the trial in court documents. That comes after six other heavily redacted depositions previously were filed in court records about a year ago.

Browne said the depositions had not taken place yet due to the pandemic, since counsel on both sides wanted to make sure everyone was safe before proceeding with the depositions. She said both parties are in the process of scheduling the depositions and planning on doing so remotely – and are permitted to conduct those depositions remotely.

Browne said Doe's wife's brother-in-law, along with the brother-in-law's wife and daughter, are included in the depositions.

"Same folks – nobody new," Browne said.

Ellis declined comment to Record Newspapers following the Thursday hearing.

The civil case has been in court since April 2016.

Doe, a former wrestler at Yorkville High School, is suing Hastert – who served as a congressman from 1987 to 2007 and was U.S. House Speaker between 1999 and 2007 – for not paying in full an allegedly agreed upon $3.5 million in hush money. He has accused Hastert of sexually abusing him when Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at the high school.

Doe is seeking $1.8 million from Hastert plus interest. The lawsuit that has been in court for more than two years. Hastert allegedly paid Doe $1.7 million between 2010 and 2014, according to court documents. Hastert also is countersuing Doe for the amount that was already paid, alleging that Doe violated their confidentiality agreement.

The case is due back in court 11:30 a.m. Sept. 25 at the Kendall County Courthouse for trial setting.

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