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Indiana attorney general sued over groping allegations

Indiana's attorney general is being sued in federal court by four women who say he drunkenly groping them during a party last year.

Posted: Jun 18, 2019 11:07 AM
Updated: Jun 18, 2019 4:47 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's attorney general is facing allegations of sexual harassment and defamation in a federal lawsuit filed by four women who say he drunkenly groped them during a party last year.

The women and their lawyers announced the lawsuit against Republican state Attorney General Curtis Hill during a Tuesday news conference. The women's lawyers said in October that they intended to sue Hill after a special prosecutor declined to pursue criminal charges against him.

Hill is accused of touching the backs or buttocks of Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon of Munster and three legislative staffers in March 2018 at an Indianapolis bar. Hill has denied wrongdoing and rebuffed calls from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state officials to resign.

The lawsuit also accuses the state of Indiana of inadequately protecting Statehouse employees from sexual harassment and workplace retaliation.

Candelaria Reardon said the lawsuit seeks "institutional change."

"When an elected official betrays the trust, the public trust, in such an egregious way so as to commit sexual battery and assault and doesn't have the honor to resign, to maintain the dignity of the office, there have to be consequences for those actions and there have to be options to hold him accountable," she said.

The attorney general's office said it would "defend vigorously" the state and Hill in federal court.

"The lawsuit is related to allegations that have now been reviewed four times," the office said in a statement. "The investigations all concluded without any recommendations for further action."

Hill faces an October hearing on possible sanctions from the state Supreme Court on allegations that he committed professional misconduct at the party, which could lead to his disbarment as an attorney.

Hill, a former Elkhart County prosecutor who was elected in 2016 to a term that runs through the end of 2020, called the women's allegations "vicious and false" during a news conference shortly after they became public last summer.

The lawsuit maintains that Hill's comments to reporters and in social media posts defamed the women and hurt their professional reputations. It seeks unspecified monetary damages from the state and Hill personally, an apology from Hill for his denials and an injunction ordering the state to adopt tougher sexual harassment policies.

The special prosecutor noted that Hill didn't deny the touching occurred, but that he justified it as "incidental ... in the crowded bar" and "not intended to be disrespectful, sexual in nature or rude." A separate state inspector general's report cited eyewitnesses who called Hill's behavior inappropriate and "creepy" but said he didn't break any state ethics rules.

Niki DaSilva, a legislative assistant for the Indiana Senate Republican Caucus, described keeping her Statehouse office door locked when she was inside after her allegations against Hill became public in fear of Hill or someone working for him walking in. The women said they also faced offensive remarks and avoided some work-related social events because of uncomfortable reactions from legislators or other staff members.

Hannah Kaufman Joseph, an attorney for the women, said the state has no consistent policy regarding sexual harassment covering lawmakers, statewide elected officials, lobbyists and staff members and faulted it for not seeking independent investigations of such allegations.

"The state of Indiana has simply failed to adequately protect the individuals that work in and around the Statehouse — all of them — as required by federal law," she said.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 665285

Reported Deaths: 12697
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion910581653
Lake48637887
Allen36050641
Hamilton32231398
St. Joseph30243514
Elkhart25484420
Vanderburgh21315382
Tippecanoe20185205
Johnson16425361
Porter16053276
Hendricks15899301
Clark12032182
Madison11779321
Vigo11672231
Monroe10394164
Delaware9879179
LaPorte9821198
Howard9095199
Kosciusko8588111
Bartholomew7504147
Warrick7445153
Hancock7439134
Floyd7255172
Wayne6654192
Grant6453157
Boone611991
Morgan6118126
Dubois5933112
Dearborn550669
Cass5477100
Marshall5446105
Henry542695
Noble510978
Jackson465567
Shelby462591
Lawrence4193113
Gibson404985
Harrison402764
Clinton397053
Montgomery390584
DeKalb387178
Knox357885
Miami357863
Whitley350638
Huntington348377
Steuben339855
Wabash333076
Putnam331960
Ripley327862
Adams325149
Jasper318443
White298052
Jefferson295974
Daviess285696
Fayette272656
Decatur271388
Greene262280
Posey261432
Wells258975
Scott251450
LaGrange242170
Clay241444
Randolph225877
Spencer219330
Jennings216344
Washington213027
Sullivan203639
Fountain202542
Starke189251
Owen183453
Fulton179637
Jay178528
Carroll176919
Perry173836
Orange171351
Rush165422
Vermillion161542
Franklin159735
Tipton149241
Parke140116
Pike128433
Blackford120627
Pulaski107544
Newton96732
Brown95240
Benton92413
Crawford92113
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54111
Unassigned0434

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