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Hastert breach-of-contract case trial may be delayed

YORKVILLE – The $1.8 million breach-of-contract case between former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and a man known as James Doe may be delayed due to circumstances on Hastert’s part.

John Ellis, Hastert’s lawyer, said during a court hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 29, he will be filing a motion to continue the case, which could push back the case’s anticipated jury selection and trial dates.

“An issue as to the defendant’s availability for the Nov. 18 trial has risen,” Ellis said in court on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Ellis’ comment made in court comes after both parties spent about 30 minutes in Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer’s chambers before the hearing.

Ellis declined to comment further after the hearing on the exact nature of Hastert’s possible lack of availability for the trial or whether it was health-related.

Pilmer said in court on Tuesday, Oct. 29, that hearings for other motions – including the 17 motions in limine, or requests for certain testimony or evidence to be excluded from the trial, filed by Browne and 18 filed by Ellis – are expected to be continued to a hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 4 at the Kendall County Courthouse, 807 John St.

Among those motions in limine are Hastert’s counsel requesting to preclude evidence of Hastert’s criminal conviction, supervised release conditions and related statements, citing hearsay and prejudicial concerns, according to court documents.

“While the facts that form the basis for the [currency] structuring charge have some connection to the alleged agreement at issue in this case, those facts do not relate to whether either party is liable for breach of contract,” Ellis wrote in court documents.

Those motions also include Doe’s counsel requesting leading questions of Hastert by his counsel to be barred if Doe’s counsel calls Hastert as an adverse witness during the trial.

“Since the defendant intends to testify on his behalf, leading questions by his own counsel, even during cross examination, is improper,” Kristi Browne, Doe’s lawyer, wrote in court documents.

Browne said after the Tuesday hearing that both parties are in agreement for a few motions in limine, but there are several that still are in contention.

Browne also declined to comment on the nature of the issue causing the possible delay. She said she doesn’t anticipate there being a huge delay, if it comes to that, though she said she was hoping to get the trial done in November.

“But it’s circumstances beyond anyone’s control, so there’s really nothing we can do,” Browne said.

The update comes after both parties failed to reach a settlement during an Oct. 18 conference at the courthouse.

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 suing Hastert for $1.8 million plus interest, from December 2014 to the date of payment, in 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.

Browne said she still expects the case going to trial and Doe testifying in the trial. As of now, Browne said, her client would have to be identified and in the presence of the jury during its selection to identify any potential conflicts of interest among possible jurors.

“There’s nothing about this potential continuance that would change that expectation,” Browne said.

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