The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, October 16, 2019 1:00 am

Hill admits drinking, not groping

2 former Elkhart employees might also testify

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Attorney General Curtis Hill admits in a new court filing to drinking three glasses of wine, a martini and a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky the night of a legislative party where he is accused of inappropriately groping four women.

But he denies specific allegations of touching a lawmaker's butt and rubbing a staffer's back. And Hill will testify he “did not intentionally place his hand ... in the vicinity” of a third woman's butt.

Another recent filing shows lawyers for the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission plan to call two women who were employed by Hill when he was a prosecutor in Elkhart County regarding prior inappropriate sexual behavior.

Hill's attorneys are attempting to block their appearance.

One woman is expected to testify about Hill's “inappropriate sexual innuendo and propositions directed to her” when he was her boss. She also has a voice mail he left her about a day after the legislative party in question, according to court records.

Hill is facing disciplinary charges before the Indiana Supreme Court, and his hearing is set to begin Monday. If found guilty, he faces a range of punishments – from a letter of reprimand all the way to suspending his law license.

Hill attended a party for the last night of the Legislature in March 2018. Four women ultimately came forward to report that he touched them inappropriately.

One was a lawmaker, and the others were staffers for Republican and Democratic caucuses. A legislative investigation found little could be done because Hill was not their boss and it happened on private property. A special prosecutor chose not to file criminal charges. And a state ethics report found there wasn't enough evidence to support an ethics violation – though it said voters will judge whether he should hold elected office in the future.

Top GOP officials – including the governor and legislative leadership – called for him to resign but he refused.

Hill's lawyers filed a pre-hearing brief Monday that said Hill “has an engaging personality and often physically interacts with others by placing a hand on the other person's arm, shoulder or back. He also has some difficulty hearing in one ear, so he is prone to leaning close to people with whom he is conversing, especially in loud environments.”

Hill said he arrived at the legislative party about midnight – after eating and drinking with lobbyists at two other restaurants. He eventually went home via an Uber about 3:30 a.m. The bar was described as small and crowded – at one point with 200 people there.

Here is what he said about four specific allegations:

• Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon was wearing a backless dress and she alleges that his hand went to the lower part of her back and he “grabbed a handful of ass.” Hill denies that and said no other witnesses report seeing it.

• Niki DaSilva said Hill put his hand around her back and when she tried to nudge it away with her hand he moved both of their hands down to her butt. Hill says he did not intentionally do so. He also admitted telling women at the bar to “show some leg” to get drinks from a senator who was bartending. He said it was an attempt at humor.

• Gabrielle McLemore Brock said Hill came up beside her while she was sitting at a stool and placed his hand on her back and rubbed his hand on her back for as much as several minutes. Hill says he doesn't remember the specific interaction but that he “would not have rubbed her or any other woman's back as she described.”

• Samantha Lozano said Hill told her she was hot but Hill says he responded that it was hot in the bar. He also said he made room for her at the bar to order a drink and placed his arm around her back or waist to guide her to the spot.

Hill's attorneys are trying to stop two women from testifying about prior behavior – saying information about events not alleged in the disciplinary complaint is inadmissible. They are Kathleen Bowers and Shelley Gupta, who formerly worked for Hill when he was prosecutor in Elkhart County. Bowers will testify about previous sexual behavior toward her and Gupta on Hill's character and reputation, court records said.

Hill's attorneys said court rules prohibit the “admission of evidence of a crime, wrong, or other act to prove a person's character in order to show that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with that character.”

But lawyers for the disciplinary commission said the women can testify about unrelated conduct to help the judge determine a proper sanction.

“Evidence of prior inappropriate sexual behavior at the Respondent's workplace will show that the Sine die party was not just an isolated event unfortunately caused by a relaxed social atmosphere and too much to drink. Such information is valuable as the Hearing Officer recommends an appropriate sanction,” the filing said.

Judge Myra Selby will hold a pre-hearing meeting today as lawyers wrestle with final logistical and discovery issues.

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