An Illinois judge recently ruled against Dennis Hastert, allowing the victim of the former politician's sexual abuse to proceed with his contract enforcement action. The case stems from a recently entered into oral settlement agreement between Hastert and an unnamed individual whom Hastert abused in the 1970s while the individual was a minor.
In 2010, Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to the unnamed individual in installments over a period of time. When Hastert had neared the half way point, in about 2014, Federal authorities became suspicious of Hastert's banking activity. As a result of the incremental withdraws from his bank account, Hastert was charged with the crime of structuring, which makes it a crime to attempt to hide certain banking transactions. The unnamed victim filed suit back in April of this year.
What About the Statute of Limitations?
Normally, in a situation where the abuse happened 40 years ago, the victim will not have any legal remedy available to them because of the statute of limitations. However, in this case, Hastert and his victim made a settlement agreement, which is a contract, which creates a new statute of limitations for the contract.
Specifically, in this case, they made an oral contract, which in Illinois has a five year statute of limitations. The present case is not about the sexual abuse from the 70s, but rather the oral contract from 2010, which was breached in 2014 when Hastert stopped making payments.
This Sounds Like Hush Money. Is This Extortion?
Hastert's attorney attempted to argue that the case should be dismissed because the settlement agreement is essentially extortion due to the fact that it was based upon a crime that Hastert could not have been prosecuted or pursued civilly for as a result of the expired statute of limitations. However, the Illinois jurist disagreed, and explained that settlement agreements regularly and routinely contain confidentiality provisions, and those confidentiality provisions are perfectly legal.
While confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements are legal, the judge further explained, that a case like Michael Jordan's in 2007, where the super star agreed to pay hush money based upon a fraudulent claim, does violate public policy as an extortion schemes.