A Chicago federal judge has dismissed a court action by a suburban businessman, who alleged former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert misused public money for his private business interests, saying the businessman’s story could not be believed.
The April 6 ruling was delivered by Judge Charles Kokoras, of U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, which shut down litigation brought by J. David John, of Burr Ridge.
John filed the suit July 2013 under a federal statute that allows a private party to pursue a case on behalf of the federal government. John alleged in the suit he had tipped off the FBI about alleged misappropriation of public funds by Dennis Hastert, after Hastert retired from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007, having served the last eight of his 20 years in office as Speaker of the House.
In retirement, Hastert set up the Office of the Former Speaker in Yorkville, which is in Kendall County, Hastert’s home county. Former speakers are allowed to operate such offices for five years after leaving the post, to administer and wrap up matters related to their time as speaker. Tax dollars pay office costs.
In John’s suit, John claimed he had conversations with FBI agent Douglas Soika, who was based in suburban Lisle, between August and October 2011. In these conversations, John said he related he had been involved in sports-related business ventures with Hastert, since Hastert left the Capitol. Due to his familiarity with Hastert, John alleged he saw Hastert take advantage of his taxpayer-funded office to pursue his private lobbying business, as well as other personal business projects.
John asked the government to enter monetary judgments against Hastert for this alleged misconduct, with John to receive an undetermined percentage of the judgments.
Judge Kokoras conducted a hearing Feb. 9, 2017, into the question of whether John had indeed told the FBI of Hastert’s alleged misuse of funds.
Kokoras reviewed Soika’s reports of his contacts with John, and took Soika’s testimony about the contacts. None of the reports mentioned Hastert, and Soika testified John never talked to him about Hastert. Instead, John discussed his child custody battle in an Arkansas federal district court and, in particular, the allegedly possible corruption of the judge presiding over the case.
Kokoras also heard testimony from John, whom he found “confusing, inconsistent, uncorroborated and implausible.”
Kokoras further noted John “possesses a deep bias in view of his direct pecuniary interest in the outcome of the case.”
In contrast, Kokoras said Soika testified in a “straightforward manner,” was “consistent” and was an “objective witness with no motive to lie” and “no interest in the outcome.”
As a consequence, the “testimonies of John and Soika cannot be reconciled,” according to Kokoras, who pointed out John’s testimony “strains credulity.”
Kokoras threw out John’s court action.
John has been represented by the firms of Muldoon & Muldoon and Goldberg Law Group, both of Chicago.
Hastert has been defended by the Washington, D.C. office of the Philadelphia-based firm of Blank Rome and by the Chicago office of the St. Louis-based firm of Bryan Cave.
In a separate matter, Hastert was charged in May 2015 with illegally structuring bank withdrawals to evade bank reporting requirements and lying to federal investigators. Prosecutors said Hastert used the money to keep a man from revealing Hastert sexually abused athletes as a high school coach decades earlier.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the FBI began looking at the withdrawals in 2013.
Hastert pleaded guilty to the structuring charge and entered prison in June 2016. He is set to be released in August 2017.