James Doe v. Dennis Hastert jury trial set for February 2021

YORKVILLE – After it being in court for more than four years, the jury trial for a civil $1.8 million breach-of-contract case between former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and a man known as James Doe is set to begin early next year.

Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer set the jury setting date for the case at 1 p.m. Feb. 17, 2021 at the Kendall County Courthouse, with the jury trial expected to begin the week of Feb. 22, 2021. He confirmed he wanted Kristi Browne, lawyer for Doe, and John Ellis, lawyer for Hastert, to keep Feb. 18 and 19 open as possible jury selection dates.

The case is next due back in court for a status hearing at 11 a.m. Jan. 8, 2021 at the courthouse to further address the jury trial, should it still occur amid the pandemic.

“Just to go over any other issues or concerns about selecting a jury or the trial process,” Pilmer said.

Hastert and Doe did not appear either in person or remotely for the Friday hearing.

Pilmer had said the trial was previously delayed amid the COVID-19 pandemic because of social distancing concerns with the size of the court's jury assembly room. He said Friday no civil jury trials are expected to take place in 2020.

Pilmer also asked Browne on Friday how many days counsel is expecting the jury trial to take.

“For the whole trial, I’m going to say three to five,” Browne said, with Ellis agreeing.

The update comes after Pilmer heard during a March 13 hearing three dozen motions in limine from Browne, and Ellis to determine what information can be included during the trial. It also followed Pilmer overruling objections from Browne in allowing Hastert's counsel to pursue the out-of-state witnesses during a March 2 hearing.

A list of witnesses that are anticipated to be investigated the week of March 2 was not provided within court documents.

Ellis mentioned Doe's brother-in-law, who may be one of the out-of-state witnesses, has been disclosed as a potential witness for the trial in court documents. That comes after six other heavily redacted depositions previously were filed in court records about a year ago.

Browne had said both parties are in the process of scheduling the depositions and planning on doing so remotely – and are permitted to conduct those depositions remotely. She had said Doe's wife's brother-in-law, along with the brother-in-law's wife and daughter, are included in the depositions.

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 seeking $1.8 million from Hastert plus interest. 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. Hastert also is countersuing Doe for the amount that was already paid, alleging that Doe violated their confidentiality agreement.

The civil case has been in court since April 2016.