- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - A Montana woman says her brother was sexually abused while in high school by Dennis Hastert, the wrestling coach who later became speaker of the House. Jolene Burdge said the FBI interviewed her about the allegations in May.

Here are a few questions and answers about the case against Hastert:

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Q: COULD HASTERT BE CHARGED WITH A SEX OFFENSE?

A: Legal experts say Hastert is unlikely to face charges on any sexual abuse he may have committed in the 1960s or 1970s. When Hastert taught and coached in the Chicago suburb of Yorkville, Illinois’ statute of limitations for sexual abuse was three years. State legislators have since extended that period, but those changes are not retroactive.

There is no federal law for criminal sexual abuse that might apply, said Steve Greenberg, a Chicago-area criminal attorney not linked to the Hastert case.

In more recent cases, prosecutors have 20 years from the time the sexual abuse victim turns 18 to charge the attacker, explained Kelly Griffith, an attorney at the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

A new state law that took effect in 2014 provides prosecutors an unlimited amount of time to charge someone under certain circumstances. But that law only applies to abuse that happened from 2014 on.

If he were accused of any sex offenses from the 1990s or 2000s, Hastert could face charges, though it would depend on a list of variables and complicated legal algebra, including when a police report was filed or when the victim became aware of the abuse.

However, no one has filed complaints or police reports about Hastert with prosecutors in Kendall County, where Yorkville is located, said Eric Weis, the state’s attorney.

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Q: COULD HE BE SUED?

A: Statutes of limitation are not as restrictive for civil cases, but Hastert would probably not be vulnerable to lawsuits either, said Monu Bedi an assistant professor at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago.

Before 1991, Illinois law allowed lawsuits involving child sex abuse to be filed for two years after the victim turned 18. That time frame was extended incrementally. By 2012, a victim turning 18 had 20 years to sue, Bedi said.

A 2014 law dropped the statute of limitations entirely on lawsuits against child abusers, but the law was not retroactive.

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Q: WHEN IS HASTERT DUE IN COURT?

A: The 73-year-old former politician and lobbyist will formally hear the charges against him and may enter a plea when he appears for his arraignment on Tuesday. He’s accused of evading bank regulations by withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars in smaller amounts and lying to the FBI about the reason for the withdrawals. If found guilty, he would face a $250,000 fine and a maximum five-year prison sentence on each of the two counts. The arraignment had been scheduled for this Thursday, but the judge delayed it until next week with no explanation.

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Q: WHAT WAS THE MONEY FOR?

A: The May 28 indictment says Hastert agreed in 2010 to pay $3.5 million to a person identified only as “Individual A” to “compensate for and conceal (Hastert’s) prior misconduct” against that person. The indictment does not specify the misconduct. The document does note that Hastert was a history teacher and wrestling coach from 1965 to 1981 in suburban Chicago. The other party “has been a resident of Yorkville and has known Hastert for most of Individual A’s life,” the document says.

A person familiar with the allegations told The Associated Press that the payments were intended to conceal claims that the Illinois Republican sexually molested someone decades ago. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

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Q: WHO IS THE JUDGE?

A: U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin is handling the case. Federal Election Commission records show Durkin gave $500 to the “Hastert for Congress” campaign in 2002, and $1,000 in 2004. Durkin was an attorney at the Mayer Brown law firm in Chicago at the time. President Barack Obama appointed him a federal judge in 2012. He is also the brother of Illinois House GOP Leader Jim Durkin.

The judge told the AP that he could not comment on any aspect of the case, including whether he might recuse himself.

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Q: WHERE IS HASTERT?

A: Hastert has not appeared in public since the indictment was announced. He has not responded to repeated phone calls and emails seeking comment. Federal agents have not arrested Hastert. Defendants who are not considered a threat or a flight risk are often not placed under arrest, though a formal detention hearing is frequently held later.

The Washington lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro has said Hastert no longer works there. He also resigned from the boards of the Chicago-based CME Group and a Christian college that had named an academic research center after him.

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Q: DOES HE HAVE AN ATTORNEY?

A: No primary attorney has been listed on Hastert’s court docket, and no lawyers have come forward publicly on his behalf. Usually, an attorney is listed in a new criminal docket within hours or a few days of an indictment. The fact that no lawyer is listed could mean Hastert is still shopping for the right attorney.

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