Dan Proft and Amy Jacobson interview Kristie Browne.
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Dan Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. So another ignominious chapter in Illinois political history comes to an end, of sorts, today, when Denny Hastert is sentenced in federal court. Amy, you’re going down there scalp a couple tickets; see if you can get into the hearing, right? Amy Jacobson: Yeah, I was there the first time and I reserved my seat, yes, for today’s hearing, but if you’re not there at a certain time, you’re going in the overflow room. It was a zoo last time around and I can imagine it’ll be the exact same this time around too. Dan Proft: Yeah, if you’re going to follow politics in Illinois as a reporter, you really need to buy a season pass to the federal court building, to make all of these appointments. And prediction, I think Judge Durkin is going to give Denny Hastert real jail time. I think he is going to do the unusual thing of discarding the plea agreement and the sentencing recommendation of prosecutors between 0 and 6 months, and I think you’re talking about 3 or 4 years in prison for Dennis Hastert, which is the minimum threshold for justice, in this case, in my estimation. Amy Jacobson: But don’t you think he’ll get 5 years? I mean, that’s a possibility too. That’s the most he could get. Dan Proft: It’s a possibility. Possibility, but he’s going to get real jail time; it’s not going to be home confinement. It’s not going to be a few months; in my best guesstimate. But there’s the other matter that was raised this week, that’s the civil case recently filed against Denny Hastert by “Individual A”; “Individual A” was the individual Denny Hastert was paying for past transgressions to keep “Individual A” quiet. And he was doing so apparently in a way that did not run a foul of the law, at least according to law enforcement and federal prosecutors, because they’ve not accused “Individual A” of extortion. Now “Individual A” has only received half of the three and a half million dollars that was agreed upon, apparently, between “Individual A” and Denny Hastert; has filed suit to get the rest of his money, and how that suit will proceed and how it will fair are very interesting legal questions, and for some indications on those matters we’re now joined by Kristi Browne. She is a lawyer with the Patterson Law firm, and she is representing “Individual A” in the foresaid civil case. Kristi, thanks so much for joining us, we appreciate it. Kristi Browne: Good morning. Dan Proft: Good morning. So explain this civil case in which your representing “Individual A”, because, from an outsider’s perspective, the whole arrangement between “Individual A” and Denny Hastert seems like it’s walking a very fine line between a legitimate contractual arrangement and extortion. And so, could you give us the background on what exactly was the nature of the deal between the two? Kristi Browne: It was basically an agreement to compensate my client for the injuries that he suffered as a result of Mr. Hastert’s activity. So it was similar to the settlement of a personal injury case, and like many settlements, it included a confidentiality provision. My client honored the contract in both respects, he didn’t file a lawsuit, he didn’t go to the press, and now he’s just looking for Mr. Hastert to honor his end of the bargain. Amy Jacobson: So “Individual A” has received 1.7 million dollars so far; you want the rest of the money. Did they sign an actual agreement, and was it notarized? Kristi Browne: They did not sign a written contract. That was at Mr. Hastert’s request; he didn’t want anything to be in writing. So it’s in oral contract between the two. Dan Proft: And the likelihood of success – I mean, is Denny Hastert, after this legal process, going to be effectively judgment-proof? Is there real hope that he will have the kind of assets left that are required to satisfy this agreement between “Individual A” and Denny Hastert after he’s sentenced today? Kristi Browne: That certainly I hope. We don’t have any inside information of Mr. Hastert’s financial situation; and certainly his attorney hasn’t reached out to us at all, let alone reach out to us to tell us that he does not have any assets. Amy Jacobson: How did Denny Hastert meet “Individual A” and what did he allegedly do to him? Kristi Browne: How did he meet “Individual A”? Mr. Hastert was a longtime family friend of “Individual A” ‘s family, and I’m not going to go into the details of the abuse. I think those details may or may not come out in court. They will if necessary, but I don’t really think it serves anybody so I subdue my interest to go into those details. Amy Jacobson: And speaking of court, “Individual A” has chosen not to go to the sentencing hearing today. Is he going be watching from a distance, or are you going to be calling him to tell your client what happened? Kristi Browne: I don’t know whether he’ll be watching from a distance. I certainly will be paying attention to what happens in court today, but I don’t want to go into any communications that I might have with my client. Dan Proft: Was there any - I know “Individual A” spoke with federal prosecutors, that seems fairly clear – was there any agreement, any provision of immunity ever granted “Individual A”, or was any question of “Individual A” ‘s conduct with respect to this contractual arrangement, so to speak? Was that never in question? Kristi Browne: It really was never in question. When the FBI first began investigating, Mr. Hastert did accuse my client of extortion and the FBI and the prosecutors investigated that. They had Mr. Hastert wear a wire in conversations with my client, and they concluded that it was not extortion. So there really was no concern with regard to immunity from the beginning. Amy Jacobson: Does your client individually want Denny Hastert to go to prison, or go on probation? Has he said? Kristi Browne: He really just trusts the judicial system to do whatever is the appropriate sentence in this situation. You have to keep in mind that Mr. Hastert is not being sentenced for the abuse. He’s being sentenced for the financial crimes. And so it’s a little bit different. Dan Proft: Does he ever have any intentions – “Individual A” that is – of coming forward and dispensing with the cloak of anonymity? Kristi Browne: No. Amy Jacobson: And why not? I know he’s had several offers; I’m sure you fielded several phone calls for him to come forward, but how has this affected his life and made him the person that he is today? Kristi Browne: Well, he’s an extremely private person and really has never sought out publicity, does not want to come forward publicly. These matters are extremely personal, embarrassing to anybody in his situation and difficult to deal with; the abusive… I’ve seen some long term psychological problems and he still struggles with those today. Dan Proft: What was the impetus for individual aid come forward and communicate with Denny Hastert such that this arrangement was struck? I mean, why didn’t he do it back when Denny Hastert was speaker of the house, or when he was a member of congress? It seems like there was significant time that elapsed between the abuse and the arrangement. Kristi Browne: And I think that’s not uncommon with abuse victims, particularly people who are abused as children. I feel a delayed reaction is pretty common in that’s essentially what happened here. Dan Proft: But in terms of the delayed reaction, what was the impetus for him to ultimately confront Denny Hastert about the abuse and strike this deal? Kristi Browne: I think like many abuse victims there was a lot of self blame and feeling like he was at fault for what happened, and not really recognizing that what happened was abuse. And eventually, prior to coming to Mr. Hastert, he came to the realization that this was in fact an abusive situation and that’s when he came forward. Amy Jacobson: Is “Individual A” the one who called in to C-Span, and said “Hi, Denny, do you remember me?” Kristi Browne: I don’t think so. Dan Proft: I wonder, did “Individual A”, in the communication with investigators and federal prosecutors, did he point them in any other direction in terms of other victims? Is he friendly with, does he know other victims of Denny Hastert’s? Kristi Browne: I’m not aware that he pointed them in the direction of any other victims; at the time, remember, the investigation wasn’t really an abuse investigation, as much as it was an investigation in the financial crime. Amy Jacobson: So “Individual A” was a family friend. He wasn’t part of the wrestling team, nor part of the Explorer’s Club. Did he go to the Bahamas with him? Kristi Browne: He did not. He was part of the wrestling team, but at the time the abuse occurred, it was the summer after his eighth grade year, so he wasn’t in high school yet. Amy Jacobson: And is “Individual A” still living in the area, and has he moved on? Is he married, does he have a family? Kristi Browne: I’m not going to comment about the specifics of his life; as we’ve indicated in the complaint, he still resides in Illinois. Dan Proft: And next steps in the civil case, where’s this in process? Kristi Browne: Well, it will take about 30 days before Mr. Hastert has to respond to the complaint, and once you see that response, we’ll be able to move forward from there. Dan Proft: Alright, she is Kristi Browne, she’s an attorney representing “Individual A”, who is the gentleman with the financial arrangement with Denny Hastert that has been so widely reported. Kristi Browne from the Patterson Law firm; thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it. Kristi Browne: Thank you.