Judge Grants Curry’s Request For Special Prosecutor In Hill Groping Investigation

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Olivia Covington for www.theindianalawyer.com

A Marion Superior judge has approved Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry’s request to appoint a special prosecutor to assist the Indiana Inspector General with an ongoing investigation into groping allegations made against Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill.

Judge Lisa Borges granted Curry’s motion to appoint a special prosecutor on Monday, one week after an internal memorandum detailing a legislative investigation into the allegations against Hill were leaked to the media. According to the memo — which was prepared by Indianapolis law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP at the request of the state’s legislative leaders — Hill allegedly slid his hands down Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon’s back and onto her bare buttocks twice. Reardon, however, has since said she recoiled before Hill could allegedly grope her a second time.

The memo also includes accounts from five legislative staffers who either witnessed Hill’s alleged misconduct or who claim to be victims themselves. One alleged victim, Senate minority communications director Gabrielle McLemore, has alleged Hill rubbed her back without her permission.

In the days after the memo’s leak, House Speaker Brian Bosma, Senate President pro tem David Long and Gov. Eric Holcomb, all Republicans, called for Hill’s resignation. Bosma and Long also called on the state’s Inspector General to open an investigation, which has since been done.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Curry said he has “no substantive information” about the allegations other than what has been reported in the media, and that no investigation has been filed with his office. However, in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, Curry said he filed for a special prosecutor because Hill’s office acts as counsel to Curry’s office.

Pursuant to Indiana Code section 33-23-13-3, the Attorney General’s Office is required to represent an elected prosecutor in certain civil matters. Hill is currently representing Curry in two civil matters pursuant to that statute, including a challenge to Indiana’s civil forfeiture law that is pending before the Indiana Supreme Court and the most recent Planned Parenthood federal lawsuit challenging an Indiana abortion law.

“We are a client of the Attorney General’s Office, and it would be entirely inappropriate for our office then to turn around and participate in a criminal investigation of the Attorney General,” Curry said. “When the information came to light last week, I had no doubt whatsoever that we could not be involved in any criminal investigation.”

Curry said he made the decision to move for a special prosecutor after consulting with his office and the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which has a panel of “senior prosecutors” — retired elected prosecutors or chief deputy prosecutors — who would not be precluded from serving as special prosecutor in any investigation against Hill. He also said he was contacted by the Inspector General’s office on July 3, the day after the allegations were leaked, to learn what his role in any investigation might be. As he told reporters on Tuesday, Curry said he told the IG’s office that he would be precluded from involvement with any investigation.

The special prosecutor who is appointed to confer with the Inspector General’s office throughout the investigation will have the ultimate say as to whether criminal charges should be filed against Hill, Curry said. Both Reardon, a Munster Democrat, and Rep. Linda Lawson, another northern Indiana House Democrat who has worked as a sex crimes police officer, have said the alleged groping incident could be considered sexual battery. Curry said that offense, if charged, would be a Level 5 felony, but Hill’s sexual intent in allegedly touching Reardon would have to be proven.

The Democratic prosecutor declined to join the chorus of state leaders calling for Hill’s resignation and also declined to say whether he thinks Hill committed a crime. For his part, the Republican Attorney General has vowed to stay in office and has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. Hill has also criticized the legislative investigation into those allegations, saying he was never contacted by an investigator and did not learn of the complaints — which were first reported to Bosma in mid-May — until June 29.

Hill released a statement on Friday demanding that Curry’s office conduct a new investigation into the allegations, then repeated more general calls for a “proper” investigation at a Monday press conference.

“Justice gains its integrity through the protection of individual rights, such that every single person will be afforded due process of law. And that means fairness,” Hill said Monday. “And yet, somehow, that protection, that standard of fairness, that benefit of the doubt, that presumption of innocence until proven guilty has escaped my grasp. I never dreamed this could happen to me.”

While Curry agreed Hill is presumed innocent until proven guilty, he also said due process only applies to criminal investigations and the taking of property, so due process rights were not implicated during the legislative investigation.

Though he cannot participate in the IG’s investigation, Curry said he has facilitated communication between the Inspector General’s Office and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Sex Crimes Unit.

A special prosecutor has yet to be appointed, but Curry said it would not be very long before a decision is made.

For more on the investigation into the groping allegations against Hill, read the July 11 issue of Indiana Lawyer.

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