Former U.S. Speaker Accused of Sexual Abuse Against Former Student

Dennis Hastert, retired Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is under investigation for sexual abuse against a former male student, which allegedly occurred at a school where Hastert worked as a teacher until 1981. The investigation was initiated after the FBI became suspicious of several large cash transactions involving Hastert and totaling $1.4 million. While this isn’t technically a sexual harassment case, we wanted to talk about this story for two reasons: 1) it’s a huge news item that has many people discussing just what is and what is not appropriate when it comes to conduct at work and at school; and 2) allegations of abuse or harassment at work often boil down to “he said, she said” type arguments, and this story illustrates the kind of polarization that such arguments can create.

Federal authorities levied charges against Hastert, whom they allege lied to the FBI about why he was making large cash withdrawals. According to the charges, the funds were being paid to the former student to keep the alleged abuse incidents secret.

The indictment also charges Hastert agreed to pay a total of $3.5 million to ensure the former student would not make the abuse public. Initially, Hastert withdrew $50,000 at a time to make payments, but after bank officials questioned the activity, he lowered the amount of each withdrawal to below $10,000. The large and consistent number of withdrawals attracted the attention of federal officials, who suspected Hastert was attempting to evade income reporting requirements.

Ironically, Hastert replaced GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1998, after Gingrich was ousted amid an ethics investigation for which he wound up being heavily fined. Since leaving Congress in 2007, Hastert has worked as a co-leader of Dickstein Shapiro’s Public Policy and Political Law practice, as a board member for a firm specializing in the futures market, and as a board member of the evangelical Christian school, Wheaton College, located on the outskirts of Chicago. Hastert resigned all three positions after the indictment was announced.

The Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP team can help you understand your rights and options in a potential sexual harassment case. Call us today at 1 (212) 688-5640, or email us at info@jhllp.com, to schedule a free intake evaluation.