Report: AG Hill’s behavior ‘creepy’ but not criminal

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Olivia Covington for wwww.theindianalawyer.com

A 25-page report released by the Indiana Office of the Inspector General on Tuesday shines a light on the fallout from groping allegations against Attorney General Curtis Hill, including new allegations that he inappropriately touched four lobbyists in addition to the four women who previously accused him.

Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres released a report Tuesday that recounted, in detail, the events that occurred at the sine die party and the subsequent investigations into Hill’s alleged misconduct. Torres’ report was released on the heels of the announcement that special prosecutor Dan Sigler will not file criminal charges against Hill related to the four groping allegations. Sigler cited insufficient evidence to support prosecution.

Torres’ report also found insufficient evidence to support allegations that Hill violated laws regarding ghost employment and misuse of state property when he held a press conference to address the groping allegations in his Statehouse office, or when he issued press releases in his defense on OAG letterhead. But Torres’ report does provide a detailed look at the incidents surrounding the groping allegations and describes the attorney general’s behavior at AJ’s Bar as “well documented.”

According to Torres’ report, the IG’s office, with the assistance of an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department sex crimes officer, interviewed 56 witnesses and obtained a recorded video statement from Hill. Many of the witnesses corroborated the allegations made by the four women — including Democratic State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon of Munster — either as eyewitnesses or as friends of the victims who were later told about Hill’s alleged misconduct.

The report’s recitation of the facts surrounding Hill’s alleged groping of Reardon and three legislative staffers largely mirrors what has previously been reported. Specifically, the report says Hill:

• ran his hand down Reardon’s back and groped her buttocks once, then touched her back a second time before she got away;

• rubbed his hand up and down Senate Minority communications director Gabrielle McLemore’s back for an extended period of time;

• wrapped his hand around House Democrats legislative assistant Samantha Lozano’s waist, and;

• rubbed his hand down Senate majority aide Niki DaSilva’s back before placing her hand and his on her buttocks.

The report identifies Reardon as “legislator” and the three staffers as “Staffers 1, 2 and 3,” but the four women have publicly come forward to share their allegations. Reardon, McLemore and DaSilva identified themselves as Hill’s accusers earlier this summer after news of the previously confidential allegations leaked, while Lozano publicly came forward for the first time on Tuesday.

The report begins by tracing Hill’s steps in the hours leading up to his arrival at AJ’s Lounge. According to the OIG, Hill dined at the Capital Grille in downtown Indianapolis on the evening of March 14 and consumed one glass of wine. He then went to the 1933 Lounge, where he had at least one more glass of wine, and possibly two more.

Hill then arrived at AJ’s between 11:30 p.m. and midnight. Several witnesses told OIG investigators “that it was highly unusual to see a statewide elected official at the sine die party …,” as it was intended to be a celebration for legislators and their staffers.

Witnesses described the atmosphere in the bar as “jovial” and “celebratory,” with some witnesses estimating that between 100 and 200 people were in attendance. But the owner of AJ’s, who was also interviewed, said the bar has a capacity of 60 people and was not “overly crowded.”

Among the 56 witnesses interviewed were 39 who attended the sine die party. Of those 39, 20 said Hill was intoxicated, claiming he was having trouble standing, was glassy-eyed, was slurring his speech and was disheveled. One of the witnesses described the AG as “acting like a freshman at a college frat party,” while another said he behaved in a “predatory, intoxicated manner.” In addition to the wine he consumed before arriving at AJ’s, the report says the AG drank a vodka martini and “sipped from a fireball” while at the party.

In addition to recounting the allegations made by the four women and their witnesses, the report lists two additional incidents in which Hill inappropriately touched four lobbyists who were at AJ’s. According to the report, Hill “draped his arms around two female lobbyists and put his hand on the back of another female lobbyist … in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.” Then, another incident documented in the report describes Hill “dirty dancing” with a fourth lobbyist in a way that caused the lobbyist to ask a friend for help if Hill came near her again.

The four lobbyists were not named in the report and have not publicly come forward.

After the allegations against Hill became public last summer, the AG went on the offensive and said Reardon and the staffers’ claims were “vicious and false,” though at that point the victims had not been publicly identified. He later provided a video-recorded statement to the OIG investigators, during which he said he had “absolutely not” touched anyone inappropriately “in (his) mind.”

Hill also said in his statement that the bar was crowded and loud, and “often times (he) had to embrace or get close to someone to hear what was being said or to make sure someone could hear” him. Interviews with state legislative leaders revealed that Hill initially apologized for any perceived inappropriate behavior when he was first approached with the allegations, but later “hardened” his attitude when the allegations became public.

Though Torres found insufficient evidence to warrant a complaint against Hill, she said evidence of Hill’s intoxication and “creepy” behavior was well documented. She noted McLemore, Lozano and DaSilva are all in their 20s, demonstrating “the disparate power, influence, authority, and age that exists between Hill and the women who made allegations against him.”

“Hill publicly demanded a fair and full investigation,” Torres wrote. “The interviews of fifty-six witnesses by special agents of the OIG, the opportunity for Hill to provide his own recorded statement, the participation of the IMPD Sex Offense Section in nearly every interview, and the assessment and analysis by a special prosecutor provided an unbiased, independent review of the events of that evening and events thereafter.”

“The public and others will judge whether the evidence in this case disqualifies Hill from holding elected office in the future,” Torres concluded. “This investigation is now closed.”

In a footnote to her report, Torres wrote that the Inspector General’s Office has previously “received several additional complaints from members of the public regarding Hill’s actions prior to his election as Attorney General.” However, because he was not an executive branch employee at the time of those allegations, OIG could not investigate. Hill served as the elected Elkhart County prosecutor before his election as AG in 2016.

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