Dan Carden, writing for NWI.com, has a new story about the Attorney General Curtis Hill groping scandal that Tony Cook, Ryan Martin, and Kaitlin Lange initially broke for the Indy Star. The story is that Hill came into AJ’s Bar after sine die where legislative types were having an end-of-session celebration. According to the memo prepared by a law firm that investigated the complaint for the General Assembly, Hill was described as “very intoxicated.” While there, Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon says that Hill groped her. Specifically, she says:
He greeted me and the staffer that was with me. While I do not know him personally, we had met before. As we were exchanging pleasantries, Curtis Hill leaned toward me as if he could not hear me and placed his hand on my back and slid his hand down to my buttocks and grabbed it. I said “back off,” and walked away, as the staffer with me stood shocked.
Later in the evening, I was standing with a group of people, and he approached the group. Hill came up behind me and put his hand on my back again and said, “That skin. That back.” I recoiled away before he could touch my buttocks again.
Hill has not said what, if any, part of Rep. Reardon’s account is false.
Niki DaSilva is a staffer for the Indiana Republican Senate Caucus. She says that Hill groped her and told her she had to show a little skin to get service at the bar. Specifically, she says:
Attorney General Hill seemed rather gregarious that night and asked us what we were doing standing at the bar.
We answered that we were waiting to order a drink and Attorney General Hill, without hesitation, remarked, “Ah, come on ladies! You haven’t figured out how to get a drink yet? You’ve got to show a little skin!”
. . .
[A]ttorney General Hill put his hand on my back. I was taken aback by this gesture as we had never held a conversation before that night. I felt his hand start to slide slowly down my back.
I didn’t want to bring attention to his actions, so I tried to push his hand away inconspicuously using my free hand.
When our hands met, instead of taking this nudge as a cue to remove his hand from my lower back, he grabbed my hand and moved both of our hands over my butt, lingering there before releasing me.
Hill has not said what, if any, part of DaSilva’s account is false.
Gabrielle McLemore is the Communications Director for the Indiana Senate Democrats. She says Hill cornered her and rubbed her back. Specifically, she says:
“Do you know who I am?”
That’s what he said when he pulled a stool up next to me and forced me to move uncomfortably closer to the bar’s ledge on my right with people both in front and behind me. I was cornered by Indiana’s attorney general, who I had never previously met, and he began rubbing my back.
McLemore appears to be “Legislative Employee B” from the investigative memo. According to the memo the back rubbing went on for about two minutes. Hill has not said what, if any, part of McLemore’s account is false.
The investigative memo talks about another staffer who alleges that Hill hugged her at the bar in an inappropriate fashion and a couple of others who witnessed him talking about how they should show some skin to get faster service at the bar.
Hill’s initial response was:
“I have never been contacted by any investigator,” he said. “I have not been informed of who made these allegations nor have I been provided any due process with regard to these vicious allegations.”
Generally, he seems to be saying that the claims are false, that he was never given an opportunity to present his side of the story, and he has not been afforded due process. However, since the story broke, Hill has not — at least so far as I’ve been able to tell — explained his side of the story. And there doesn’t seem to be any process which he regards as satisfactory. Per the most recent Carden story, Hill’s lawyers are challenging the efforts of the Marion County prosecutor to have a special prosecutor appointed. Previously, Hill had demanded that Marion County Prosecutor, Terry Curry, spearhead an independent investigation. Curry demurred because his office is represented in ongoing litigation by the Attorney General’s office. But, he did request the special prosecutor. Hill’s lawyers are also challenging the propriety of an investigation by the Inspector General. They cite some statutory scope of authority concerns, but Hill’s initial objection to the IG’s investigation was that Gov. Holcomb appoints the Inspector General and Holcomb has already called for Hill’s resignation. [Side note: It might be amusing for a lawmaker to request an Attorney General’s opinion on what sort of legal process is appropriate for a hypothetical situation that looks a lot like this one.]
If this is all just a big set up and all of these women are lying, then Hill’s response would be appropriate. If Hill went to the bar, was mostly sober, kept his hands to himself, and then left, he would have every right to be pissed off about this whole thing. But, he hasn’t said that’s what happened, and I’m not particularly inclined to believe that all these women are lying. I’m no political adviser, but it seems to me that had he said, “I drank too much, acted inappropriately, and I apologize” — maybe followed by seeking treatment through JLAP (Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program) or some other substance abuse treatment provider — I think he could weather this particular storm. Instead, he has opted for a Trumpian attack strategy. And, I guess it’s paying off in some circles. Cook, Lange, Martin, and Shari Rudavsky, writing for the Indy Star, say that the pastor at Hill’s Church in Elkhart, Indiana is attempting to rally the congregation in support of Hill — drawing parallels between Hill and Christian martyrs, particularly the arrest of Peter and the martyrdom of Stephen. “Satan is at work and there’s a real war going on. He’s trying to discourage our brother Curtis,” says pastor Phil Byers. (Herod arrested Peter for being a member of the Christian church, and Stephen was martyred in connection with an internecine dispute about whether Stephen’s message about Christianity was contrary to Mosaic law. Neither, to my knowledge, was accused of being drunk and handsy in a bar.) This strategy could work, of course. Inciting tribal passions is a good way to get people to overlook misbehavior that they would not otherwise excuse.