Hastert's accuser to remain under shroud of mystery

An Illinois judge said Thursday that the accuser of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, known publicly as Individual A, is allowed to remain anonymous until the next hearing.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert departs the federal courthouse Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Chicago, after his sentencing on federal banking charges which he pled guilty to last year. An Illinois judge ruled Thursday that his accuser, Individual A, can remain anonymous until the July 25 hearing.

A judge in the civil lawsuit against Dennis Hastert, has said the accuser may remain anonymous, for now.

The suit, filed for breach of contract, states that Mr. Hastert molested the accuser several decades ago while the former speaker of the House was a teacher and wrestling coach at a high school in suburban Chicago. In 2010, the accuser confronted Hastert and requested $3.5 million in compensation.

From 2010 to 2014, Hastert paid out approximately $1.7 million in cash he had withdrawn from his accounts. Now the accuser has filed a breach of contract suit for the remaining $1.8 million he believes was promised by Hastert in exchange for his silence.

The repeated withdrawals – on 106 separate occasions, according to the prosecutors in his criminal trial – of funds amounting to less than $10,000 were what initially flagged investigators. Banks are required to report anytime an individual makes large cash withdraws of more than $10,000, since large withdrawals are often associated with money laundering. Knowingly making withdrawals for less than that amount is considered structuring cash for the purpose of avoiding detection. Each withdrawal carries a punishment of potential fines and jail time.

Initially Hastert made several withdrawals of $50,000 at a time and paid the money out to an individual every six weeks, according to the indictment. He then decreased the amount withdrawn to below $10,000 and continued making payments. The former longest-serving Republican speaker of the House was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison and $250,000 in fines.

At first, Hastert's indictment refrained from mentioning why he had been paying hush money, however, law enforcement individuals later announced that the money was going to a former student who had been molested by Hastert in the 1970s.

The student, known publicly only as Individual A, and his attorney requested to remain anonymous as the civil suit proceeds as he seeks restitution for the remainder of his original agreed-upon $3.5 million; a request that was approved by an Illinois judge on Thursday.

Individual A had initially filed his complaint using a pseudonym, James Doe. While the judge will require him to refile the complaint under his real name, he will publicly remain anonymous at least until the next hearing on July 25 – at which point Hastert's attorneys will be able to object to the accusers anonymity.

Courts have long allowed litigants to remain anonymous – the pseudonyms "Richard Roe" or "Jane Roe" are often uses as placeholders for anonymous plaintiffs, as in the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade – but the practice remains controversial.

Rape shield laws were initially implemented in the US during the 20th century to protect accusers from facing the emotional trauma of being asked about their personal sexual history on a witness stand. Similar laws protecting victims identities exist for the benefit of sexual assault victims.

In 2015, a 16 year-old Alabama girl who was raped by a high school football star faced repeated harassment by her peers for reporting the incident.

In an opinion piece on Al Jazeera America, Allison Yarrow opens with the question, "what if you became famous for the worst thing that ever happened to you?"

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