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John ex rel. United States v. Hastert

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 6, 2017

J. DAVID JOHN, ex rel., United States of America, Plaintiff and Relator,
v.
J. DENNIS HASTERT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES P. KOCORAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Consistent with this Court's order of July 6, 2016, an evidentiary hearing was held on February 9, 2017. The hearing was necessitated by the dispute of material facts presented by the assertions of J. David John, the Plaintiff and Relator, and the version of events as asserted by Special Agent of the FBI Douglas Soika (“Soika”), as to his contacts with John. The essential question to be decided was what was disclosed by John to Soika and whether John qualified as an original source of information to the Government in order to avoid the public disclosure bar of 31 U.S.C. § 3730.

         Both John and Soika testified at the hearing and, along with the admission of some exhibits, their testimony constituted the entirety of the hearing. The parties were represented by counsel, and each of the two witnesses was subjected to cross examination in addition to their direct examinations.

         The following description represents the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Soika joined the FBI in August 2005 after receiving a four-year college degree from the State University of New York, graduate studies at the College of St. Rose, and service in the United States Marine Corps. He graduated from the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia and had, as his first assignment, the Buffalo, New York division. Soika was assigned to a small office in Rochester. In December of 2008, he was transferred to the Chicago office and, in 2011, assigned to the Lisle FBI office.

         The evidence established that John contacted the Chicago FBI office by phone on August 5, 2011 and spoke to Patricia Chrasika. The FBI records reflect a report of that contact and what the call was about. John told Chrasika that he was born in India on 10/6/1964, and that he was currently involved in a child custody case with a woman by the name of Megan. This child was born in March of 2010, and John was scheduled to go to court on 9/16/2011. John said he feared that his civil rights were being violated because he was from India. John said he lived in Burr Ridge and wanted to speak to an agent. The report states that John was given an address to the WRA (assumed to stand for Western Resident Agent) so that he could discuss this further with an agent. John was also given the phone number of the Chicago Bar Association with reference to free legal services and where John could speak to an attorney with any questions he may have. The report is silent as to Defendant Hastert and contains no reference to any misuse by him of federally funded benefits.

         The next contact between John and the FBI was on August 29, 2011, when John contacted the Chicago West Resident Agent's office and spoke to Soika by telephone. Consistent with his training and established FBI procedure, Soika memorialized the conversation with a written memorandum containing four pages. Although not intended to be in verbatim form, it is a summary of the relevant matters about which John was calling to complain.

         Page one of the report contains the synopsis of the complaint. It reads as follows:

“Possible corruption of a District Judge in Bentonville, Arkansas (Benton County).”

         Page two of the form is headed, “Details of the Complaint.” Reference in this section is made to the complaint of August 5, 2011. In addition, the following topics are described as the Complaints John made:

1. John's involvement in a custody battle with Megan Marie Bolinder, formerly Megan Marie;
2. An upcoming court appearance of September 15-16, 2011 in Bentonville, Arkansas;
3. That Megan Bolinder's parents, Garth and Dixie Bolinder, threatened to “bury” John if he continues to pursue custody of the child;
4. That Garth is a Superintendent at an Evangelical church (Mid South Conference Evangelical Covenant Church) and a ranking member of a religious/fraternal organization known as “The Fellowship, ” based in Washington, D.C.;
5. John's belief that his federal rights to privacy of his student education records were violated because the Bolinder family illegally acquired John's records from Wheaton College;
6. That the Bolinders met with Tom Pratt, a trustee at Wheaton College, and that Pratt is an associate of Garth Bolinder and a member of “The Fellowship;”
7. That Pratt provided the Bolinders with John's academic and employment records in an attempt by the Bolinders to discredit his character to prevent John from gaining custody of his child;
8. That on January 5, 2011, Paul Chelsea (Dean Vice President for Student Development at Wheaton College) fired John from his position as a volunteer wrestling coach;
9. That Chelsea's explanation was that Garth Bolinder told Wheaton's President to remove John because he was a man of poor moral character and had a child out of wedlock;
10. That the Bolinders sought the influence of Mike Duke (Walmart CEO and alleged “Fellowship” member) and his wife Susan Duke in an attempt to prevail or influence Judge Douglas Schrantz of the 19th Western Judicial Circuit, Division 6, Benton County;
11. That shortly after the Bolinders met with Mike and Susan Duke, John's attorney, Johnnie Rhoads (female, ) informed John that she would no longer represent him;
12. That John's current attorney told him that Judge Schrantz and Rhoads once worked at the same law firm;
13. That Rhoads turned over client-lawyer privilege documents to the Bolinders;
14. That John cannot get a fair custody hearing in Arkansas because the Bolinders have and will continue to try to influence Judge Schrantz through their influential associates.

         Soika provided John with contact information for the Department of Education should he wish to file a complaint against Wheaton College for violation of his right to privacy in his student records. Soika advised John that he did not see any other violations of federal law that warranted an FBI investigation. John was further advised to recontact Soika if John obtained any additional information that might suggest that the judge was involved in any type of corrupt activity.

         Soika's testimony at the hearing before the Court was entirely consistent with his report of the events of August 29, 2011. Soika believed he and John spoke again on August 30, but he did not write anything because there was no violation of federal criminal law. In Soika's view, as he testified, “we were looking at it as a civil matter in his custody battle, other than, you know, potential corruption on the part of the Arkansas judge.” Other than that, “there weren't any violations of federal-alleged violations of federal-criminal law that he believed were being discussed during his conversations with Mr. John.”

         Notably absent from Soika's report, made contemporaneously with the events at issue, is any mention whatever of Hastert's misuse of federally provided funds for his private business dealings. Indeed, neither of the two FBI reports includes Hastert's name. In his testimony, Soika denied having any conversations with John about Hastert.

         Soika was shown a copy of John's Second Amended Complaint and directed specifically to paragraphs 50 through 52. In those paragraphs, John alleged that he told Soika a number of specific things about Hastert and his misuse of federal funds for his office and other related items. Those paragraphs are the gravamen of John's claim to be the original source of information supplied to the FBI in support of his complaint in this case. Soika denied that John told him any of those things about Hastert, whether as stated in the complaint or “that might have sounded like that stated in different words . . .” Soika put the subject matter of his conversations with John succinctly:

         “The conversation we had related to the custody battle of his child.” In relevant respects, this is what Soika testified to about whether Hastert was discussed in his telephone conversations with John:

Q. So, other than the corruption -- the potential corruption -- matter involving the Arkansas judge, there weren't any violations of federal -- alleged violations of federal --criminal law that you believed were being discussed during your conversations with Mr. John?
A. That is correct.
Q. And that includes all of the conversations you had with him; is that correct?
A. That is correct.
Q. And when you were having these conversations, were you aware of who Dennis Hastert was?
A. I was -- I had a familiarization with the name, yes. I was no -- certainly no -- expert in his history, as it has played out since then. But I was familiar with the name being assigned to Chicago, in Illinois.
Q. You were aware that he was a member of Congress?
A. That is correct.
Q. Did you discuss Dennis Hastert during any of your conversations with Mr. John?
A. Not that I recall, no.
Q. Did you ask Mr. John why Dennis Hastert would want to keep him quiet during any of your conversations with Mr. John?
A. No, I didn't have any conversations about Mr. Hastert.
Q. Did Mr. John tell you that he and Dennis Hastert were doing business together on any of your conversations?
A. Not that I recall, no.
Q. Did Mr. John tell you that he and Mr. Hastert had been working out of the Office of the Former Speaker in Yorkville ...

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