AG Curtis Hill claims accusers are suing him for money during disciplinary hearing

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill speaks during a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Monday, July 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR/AP) — The professional future of Indiana's attorney general will be at stake with a state disciplinary hearing that threatens his law license after allegations that he drunkenly groped four women at a bar last year.

A former state Supreme Court justice opened what will likely be a week long hearing Monday on the professional misconduct complaint against Republican Curtis Hill.

Hill disputes the claims from a state lawmaker and three legislative staffers that he inappropriately touched their backs or buttocks during a party at an Indianapolis bar celebrating the end of the 2018 legislative session.

Thursday

AG Hill took the stand to start things off Thursday morning.

"I was invited to sit down for dinner (at The Capital Grille). Tony Samuel had been having appetizers. Everyone was raving about the lamb chops," AG Hill said.

AG Hill mentioned he had a glass of wine at dinner but nothing else to drink there.

"Tony Samuel indicated there was a party at AJ's (Lounge), and he asked if I wanted to join him," AG Hill said.

AG Hill estimated his arrival at AJ's Lounge around 12:15 a.m.

"I thought it was a great opportunity to see friends and make friends," AG Hill said.

He said nobody told him state-elected officials don't attend Sine Die parties.

He said he did not stay with Samuel the entire evening.

"I was walking around meeting people and talking to people," AG Hill said. "It was pretty fluid."

AG Hill said he talked to Senator Mishler, Senator Taylor and a variety of other people at AJ's.

"I am a fun guy. I can get around and have a fun time. This was an opportunity to do that," AG Hill said.

When asked about his remark on showing skin to get a drink, AG Hill responded, "I was standing at the bar area that was very crowded. As I was standing at the bar, I noticed Sen. Taylor was playing bartender. As a result, if you want to get this guy's attention, you need to show skin. I meant it as a joke."

"Someone lined up some fireball shots. I took one, and that was one of two drinks I had at AJ's," AG Hill said. "I don't believe I was intoxicated, but I do believe it played a part in my relaxed atmosphere."

When asked if he saw Rep. Candelaria Reardon at AJ's, AG Hill responded, "I did. I was walking to the bar and came face-to-face to Rep. Reardon. My back was to the front door. As we approached each other, she started to speak, and I leaned forward to hear her. As I leaned in, I put my hand on her back to brace myself."

The prosecution asked, "You don't remember how low your hand was?"

AG Hill said, "Not at the time, no. When she turned, I realized her dress was backless, and I said, 'oh, your dress is backless.' It looked like a formal or ballroom-setting dress."

When asked if he was surprised that she had a dress that was backless, AG Hill responded, "I was startled. When she turned around and I saw the dress, it made sense. There wasn't any fabric to touch."

The prosecution said Rep. Candelaria Reardon testified that AG Hill grabbed a handful of ass. When asked if he did that, AG Hill responded, "NO. My hand was on her skin and not her buttocks."

AG Hill said, "I heard the Speaker say Rep Reardon say I had placed my hands down underneath her dress and grabbed her ass twice."

When asked if he did that, AG Hill said, "no."

The prosecution then moved to question AG Hill about Niki DaSilva.

The prosecution said DaSilva claimed AG Hill had his hand on her back, grabbed it and directed it around her buttocks area.

"I have no recollection of that happening. I placed my hand on the backs of men and women to bring them close to the bar," AG Hill said.

Next, the prosecution asked AG Hill about Gabby Brock, which he said, "I don't have any recollection to seeing her at the Sine Die Party."

"I had physical contact with a host of people. Hand on the shoulder, around the waist during communication," AG Hill said. "I rubbed no one's back at AJ's for a few minutes."

AG Hill said no one told him during the night that he might have had too much to drink or needed to leave.

AG Hill was then asked about touching the women.

"It was crowded, noisy. It's not uncommon for me to put my hand on a shoulder so I can hear better. From my standpoint, whenever I am out, I want people to be comfortable with me. I let people call me Curtis," Hill said.

AG Hill said he was shocked when he learned his actions at the party were under investigation.

"I was shocked, troubled. Apparently there were women out there who believed I had done something or said something that made them uncomfortable," Hill said.

He also said that he was concerned with the leak of the investigation to the media that it was a political attack.

Hill said no one has apologized to him about the allegations.

The attorney general also responded to claims he had propositioned a woman for sex. AG Hill claims he was actually talking about dance lessons and that he did not say, "We should f______ it would be hot." AG Hill insists he said "We could have been f______ hot" - a reference to their dancing.

AG Hill said it was not his intention to be rude to the four women now accusing him. He also revealed they are now in the process of suing him for money.

During cross-examination, Pruden asks the Attorney General if he had public employees write responses to the following allegations. AG Hill said they drafted said documents on their own time and not in the capacity of an employee.

Referencing a separate document in which Hill's staff was contributing Op Eds in his name, Hill said he was in no way involved.

"He works for the AG office but he has his own business," Hill replied.

Following a quick break Pruden read from a news release from Hill's office about the Taft report: "A moment to read," Hill asks. "I want to focus on the line that reads I am not resigning the allegations against me are vicious and false," Pruden read.

"The allegations made and the way it was handled was a vicious attack. I firmly believe individuals have a right to a complaint my concern began when so called confidential information was leaked to the press by the very people who agreed to keep it confidential," Hill responded.

Pruden's cross-examination has finished and Judge Shelby requested counsel meet her in her chamber.

The day's hearing has ended.

Wednesday

Kathleen Bowers, a victims' advocate, said Hill leaned over her desk at the end of a conversation, telling her they should have sex "because it would be hot." Bowers says she refused but that Hill asked her again in March 2018.

Hill has disputed the groping allegations but hasn't yet addressed them or the sexual proposition claim in his testimony. He was expected to be questioned again about the allegations Wednesday afternoon, but it will happen Thursday instead.

Tuesday

House intern Julian Winborn testified first on Tuesday.

Winborn said he saw AG Hill rubbing the back of Rep. Candelaria Reardon, who was wearing an open-back dress.

Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus' Adam Jones also testified.

Jones said AG Hill may not have been at AJ's Lounge when he arrived.

He said he noticed AG Hill later in the evening go up and speak to people and put his arm around them. He said he saw AG Hill's arm on Rep. Candelaria Reardon's arm and that his arm went on the back and down to the top of her butt.

Jones said there were maybe 100 people in the bar, so it wasn't too crowded that he wasn't able to observe people.

He said he is certain AG Hill's arm was below the back of Rep. Candelaria Reardon's dress and on her butt because as soon it happened, she backed up and moved her arm down, and they had words.

During cross-examination, Jones said there was nobody with a dress like Rep. Candelaria Reardon's at the bar.

He said he saw Rep. Candelaria Reardon move away but did not shove him away.

Brent Stinson, who now works with the Marion County Election Board, testified next.

Stinson said he noticed AG Hill at the bar because he seemed impaired -- glassy-eyed like he'd had a few drinks, but not drunk.

While Stinson was waiting outside for a cab to go home, he saw Gabby McLemore Brock bust out of the bar in tears.

He asked McLemore Brock to explain what happened and she said AG Hill had touched her back, and she felt uncomfortable, so she left the bar.

Stinson said he saw McLemore Brock the following day and said she was still upset.

During cross-examination, Stinson agreed it was not a legislative event because no work was being done there.

"Did most people change clothes and dress down for the party?" Attorney Jim Voyles asked Stinson.

"No, most were wearing jeans," Stinson said.

Voyles also asked if Stinson noticed Rep. Candelaria Reardon's dress, which he replied, "yes."

Stinson said he did not see AG Hill touch anyone.

Stinson said McLemore Brock was upset because she was afraid other people would see it and was afraid of being touched in front of others in the room.

Stinson confirmed he told McLemore Brock to speak to an attorney or report to higher-ups than him if it warranted that.

Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus' Susan Preble testfied after a short break.

Preble said she noticed when AG Hill walked in to AG's Lounge because she had never seen a statewide official at one of these events.

Preble said Gabby told her AG Hill rubbed her back and was extremely upset and didn't know what to do.

During cross-examination, Preble reiterated how she had never seen a statewide official at a legislative event like this.

Donna Smith, who works for the Republican Senate, was next to testify.

"When females walked by him, I noticed he rubbed his body against them," Smith said. "He did that three or four times, maybe five."

Smith said AG Hill appeared very intoxicated and was not stable, physically.

During cross-examination, Smith said she never saw any crime committed when asked if she ever thought to report witnessing AG Hill rubbing Sen. Candelaria Reardon's back.

Zack Sand, a member of the Senate campaign committee, testified that when he got to the bat at 1:30 a.m. AG Hill appeared intoxicated. Sand said DaSilva told him she felt uncomfortable with Hill.

Laura McCaffrey, a lobbyist, said DaSilva told her AG Hill had touched her butt and she seemed to feel violated by that.

Allison Lucas, a legislative intern at the time, said she saw Hill rubbing an intern's back and that when that intern mouthed "help" she asked the intern if she wanted to go to the bathroom to get her out of the situation. They then chose to leave the bar.

House Speaker Brian Bosma testified Tuesday afternoon. He said he met with Rep. Candelaria Reardon after the alleged incident at the bar with AG Hill and she told him her side of what happened.

"I believe it was that day or next day we had a legislative counsel meeting and met with the other two leaders, that foursome constitutes all human resource matters in the General Assembly. So we determined we had to interview those who made the allegations. Five people total," Bosma said.

House Speaker Bosma and Senator Long had then called AG Hill after interviews with the accusers were finished.

"At first the Attorney General did not know what the call was about so he was shocked. He said at least three or four times that he had a lot to drink that night and did not intentionally touch anyone that night," Bosma said.

Bosma said AG Hill apologized during the call and asked for them to pass along his apology to the women involved.

Monday

Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon testified first on Monday.

"He put his hand down my back, into my dress and grabbed my bottom," Rep. Candelaria Reardon said. "I was shocked. I was afraid. I was violated. I was angry."

Rep. Candelaria Reardon also said AG Hill's behavior has impacted her life.

“It’s deeply affected me and the world around me,” Rep. Candelaria Reardon said.

She testified that she is afraid to go places alone and suffers panic attacks that feel like heart attacks.

Attorneys for AG Hill argue his actions were a “friendly gesture” and that there is no evidence of battery or sexual battery. They told the disciplinary hearing officer this is “fundamentally a case of differences in perception.”

Legislative Assistant Samantha Lozano testified, stating that AG Hill "put his hand around my waist and he pulled me close to him.”

During cross examination AG Hill's attorneys, Lozano admitted drinking and feeling buzzed at the party.

Former Legislative Assistant Niki DaSilva also testified Monday afternoon.

"He put his hand on my back, mid to lower back. I froze. ... He pulled my arm down with his and touched my butt," DaSilva said. "He finally let go. He stared at me. I stood in shock. He was smirking at me. He’s an elected official. I’m a staffer. I felt I couldn’t say anything about it. I didn’t want to cause a scene.”

Hill has rebuffed calls from state leaders to resign.

The Indiana Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether to impose a reprimand or any other sanctions on Hill's law license, which he must have as the state's top lawyer.