INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana watchdog agency is seeking a two-year suspension of Attorney General Curtis Hill’s law license over allegations that the Republican drunkenly groped three women at a bar.
The Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission recommended the suspension on Monday, but a hearing officer still must weigh in and the justices would have the final say in deciding what if any sanction is necessary. A suspension would put Hill’s job as the state’s top law enforcer in jeopardy. He’s running for re-election in 2020.
Hill denies the allegations. His lawyers said in a filing Monday that the case should be dismissed.
The commission, which investigates misconduct by lawyers, said four days of testimony against Hill in October “cannot be brushed off as simply boorish behavior or overlooked as a misunderstanding of intent.”
Hill refutes allegations that he inappropriately touched the backs or buttocks of three women, ages 23 to 26, and made sexual comments during a party at an Indianapolis bar at the close of the 2018 legislative session.
Hill said he briefly touched Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon’s back while leaning in to hear what she was saying during the party and was startled to realize she was wearing a backless dress. Hill said “absolutely not” when asked whether he grabbed Reardon’s buttocks.
“In such environments, there tends to be some degree of physical contact between individuals,” Hill’s lawyers said of the crowded party. “The amount of physical contact a particular person is comfortable with is highly variable from person to person. Some people are fine with high degree of physical contact.”
Hill’s legal team said physical contact between men and women has “become a fraught topic.”
“The social consensus around what is appropriate and inappropriate seems to be shifting,” his lawyers said.
The Disciplinary Commission noted that the women’s testimony was consistent and corroborated.
Hill “appears to blame the victims because they ‘misperceived’ his intent,” commission lawyers said. “No one could misperceive being grabbed on the buttocks, rubbed down their back, pulled tightly around the waist toward someone, or having their hand forced to their buttocks.”
Former state Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby is serving as the hearing officer and will file a report with the Supreme Court.