Attorney General accusers testify against Curtis Hill

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Choking back tears and expressing regret that they needed to come forward publicly, the four women who claimed Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill groped them in a downtown bar testified before the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission Monday.

Hill sat just feet away from the women in the Supreme Court chambers as former Justice Myra Selby listened to the testimony.

State Representative Mara Candelaria Reardon recounted how she attended a party at AJ’s Lounge early on the morning of March 15, 2018, to celebrate the end of the General Assembly’s legislative session.

Reardon said twice Hill accosted her, once sliding his hand down her bare back to hook his thumb into the waist of her dress.

“I said, ‘Back off! What the ….!’” testified Reardon, who said she then walked across the bar and said to a Republican colleague of Hill’s, “Your boy is …creeper!”

When asked under cross examination what her characterization of Hill as “your boy” meant, Reardon said she intended the statement to refer to the Attorney General’s status as a republican.

Reardon said Hill smelled of alcohol, and she considered his touching intentional, “You just don’t fall into somebody’s dress.”

Reardon also said Hill later came up behind her again and said, “That skin. That back,” and resumed touching her.

The lawmaker, a Democrat from northwest Indiana, said an investigation undertaken by the Inspector General contained inaccurate statements, and the decision by a special prosecutor to not file criminal charges against Hill, even though he believed the women’s stories, was disappointing.

When Reardon claimed that as the special prosecutor left the news conference announcing his decision, he said to her, “Good luck, sweetheart.” She felt like “it was just a slap in the face.”

Reardon said she was removed from the Legislative Black Caucus after filing her complaint against Hill and has suffered panic attacks as a result of the incident.

Reardon’s legislative aide, Samantha Lozano, then testified and said she was also assaulted by Hill that morning as lobbyists, lawmakers and statehouse employees partied at the open bar.

“I could smell alcohol, and his eyes were low,” Lozano testified. She said Hill told her, “You’re really hot,” and wrapped his arm around her waist, leading her to make eye contact with a friend to come to her rescue.

Niki DaSilva said she stepped in between Lozano and Hill and soon found herself stunned as the A.G. allegedly told her that in order to get a drink at the bar, “You have to show a little knee. You have to show a little skin.” Stifling tears, DaSilva then described how she felt Hill grab her hand and guide it to her backside, and he proceeded to grope her.

“I stood there in shock. He was smirking,” she testified. “He’s a superior, an elected official, and I’m a staffer, and I felt I couldn’t say anything about it. I didn’t want to cause a scene.”

DaSilva eventually quit her statehouse job but not before locking herself into her office every day in fear that Hill would come looking for her after her complaint was lodged.

Gabrielle (McLemore) Brock, a former press secretary for House Democrats, said she never saw the other women accosted at AJ’s that morning, but encountered Hill at the bar where he rubbed her back in what she termed a “sexual manner.” Brock said she walked outside the bar and burst into tears, immediately telling friends what had happened. Later she said that State Senator Greg Taylor told her he had witnessed the encounter and apologized for not stepping in to her defense.

In an opening statement, Seth Pruden, representing the Disciplinary Commission, said that even though he wasn’t criminally charged, Hill committed battery and sexual battery on the women and as a result, violated rules governing the conduct of attorneys in the state of Indiana.

Hill engaged in “a denial campaign and set out to humiliate these women in public,” branding the women as “liars,” said Pruden, who charged the A.G. directed his staff, friends and outside political consultants to carry out that campaign to “deny and discredit,” his accusers.

One of Hill’s attorneys, Dan Lundberg, told the hearing officer that the charges against his client result from differing perceptions about what had happened that night in the bar and a recent cultural shift in appropriate interactions between men and women.

Lundberg also indicated that the defense will argue that the Disciplinary Commission has overreached its mandate by attempting to sanction what may be offensive personal behavior but committed outside the courtroom or beyond the Attorney General’s official duties.

Hill did not intend his own sexual arousal while interacting with the women, Lundberg said, and would so testify.

Hill’s team is attempting to keep out anticipated testimony by two women who formerly worked with the A.G. while he served as the prosecutor in Elkhart County, whose accounts would bolster the Commission’s claim that the incidents at the Indianapolis bar are indicative of longstanding behavioral traits and a continuing pattern.

Former Justice Selby said she would rule on such motions to omit that testimony when they are filed, however, she did overrule Hill’s attorneys on a pair of objections.

DaSilva was allowed to testify that she feared being sued for defamation after an earlier Hill attorney made such a threat in a press release during the early months of the case.

Former Justice Selby also permitted Pruden to introduce a Hill press release denying the women’s claims as indicative of an ongoing attempt to discredit the accusers that the Supreme Court must consider in determining whether the Attorney General violated ethics rules for lawyers.

The Commission is expected to call 15 or more witnesses who will testify to what happened in the bar that night and what actions Hill took after the accusations became known.

The defense listed five to 10 witnesses who could take the stand as early as Wednesday.

At the end of the weeklong hearing, former Justice Selby will take the case under advisement and write a finding of no wrongdoing that could include no penalty or violations and sanctions ranging from a private reprimand up to disbarment.

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