At least one man allegedly told the FBI a decades-old story of being inappropriately touched by former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, The New York Times reported Friday afternoon, one of a flurry of leaks from anonymous sources familiar with the investigation of the Illinois Republican. The allegations stem from before his political career, when Hastert was a wrestling coach and teacher at Yorkville High School, and BuzzFeed News has suggested there may be multiple victims. Since the 73-year-old was indicted Thursday on federal charges allegedly related to a $3.5 million hush-money scheme to conceal “prior misconduct,” multiple reports have suggested “Individual A” may have been sexually abused by Hastert. “It is a fairly sparse indictment,” said Scott Coffina, a senior partner in the litigation group at Drinker Biddle & Reath, who once pursued recoveries for fraud against the government as a former assistant U.S. attorney. “This lack of details leads to all types of speculation.”
The day started with clips of an uncomfortable moment from C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on Nov. 13, 2014, when a man calling himself “Bruce” from Illinois called in and said “Hello, Denny. … Remember me from Yorkville?” then started laughing.
No court date had been set for Hastert’s arraignment in the 24 hours since the indictment was filed. Hastert was released on his own recognizance on a preliminary bail of $4,500 but has made no public statements.
A press contact for the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois told CQ Roll Call on a Friday afternoon phone call the office did not intend to send out any further updates on the Hastert case.
Hastert’s legal team also remains a mystery.
Lawyers representing the former speaker in a civil suit in Illinois’ Northern District, including Dickstein Shapiro’s Justin A. Chiarodo, do not appear to be defending him against the criminal charges. A receptionist for Hastert’s son, Ethan Allen Hastert of the Chicago-based Mayer Brown LLP, said she could not answer the question and a voicemail was not returned.
Hastert stepped away from his job at lobbying shop Dickstein Shapiro shortly after the news was announced.
He also resigned from the board of advisors of the Wheaton College center that bears his name. The J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy will continue to serve its educational purposes “in conformity with the highest ethical and academic standards of excellence and integrity, in conformity with our institution’s identity,” stated a May 29 post from Wheaton’s media relations department.
Wheaton announced shortly after news of the indictment broke that the college was “saddened” to learn of the allegations against one of its most prominent alumni. The most recent statement concluded, “The College respects Mr. Hastert’s distinguished public service record and the due process being afforded him pursuant to the charges that have been filed against him.”
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin said Friday that regardless of party, the indictment of the former speaker was another blemish on the reputation of politicians in his home state.
“Let’s be realistic. This takes a toll on public confidence in elected officials across the board, Democrats and Republicans,” the Illinois Democrat said. “Even though I believe the vast majority of my colleagues in both parties are honest people, working hard to serve the public, the continued investigations, indictments and incarcerations of elected officials has got to take its toll on the public confidence.”
While noting that at this point, the indictment against Hastert represents only charges, Durbin said he woke up Friday morning still shaken from the news about his longtime colleague in the Illinois delegation.
“I was stunned when I heard the news. I know him. I’ve worked with him. We served together in the Illinois delegation, and of course I worked with him when we was speaker,” Durbin told reporters. “It is a stunning indictment and revelation. I have not heard his explanation yet, and of course I want to.”
— Kate Ackley and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report .
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