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Indiana attorney general’s law license suspended for groping

Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill’s law license will be suspended for 30 days over an allegation that he drunkenly groped four women during a party, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Posted: May 11, 2020 11:56 AM
Updated: May 11, 2020 4:44 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, who has sought national attention as an anti-abortion and tough-on-crime crusader, will have his law license suspended for 30 days over allegations that he drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three other women during a party, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The unanimous court decision said that the state’s attorney disciplinary commission “proved by clear and convincing evidence that (Hill) committed the criminal act of battery.”

Attorney General Curtis Hill issued the following statement Monday:

“I accept with humility and respect the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling of a 30-day suspension of my license with automatic reinstatement.

I have directed that beginning Monday, May 18, Chief Deputy Aaron Negangard will assume responsibility for the legal operations of this office during the temporary suspension of my license until it is reinstated on Wednesday, June 17.

I offer my deepest gratitude to my family, friends and the entire staff of the Office of the Attorney General.

My staff has worked tirelessly and without interruption and will continue to do so on behalf of all Hoosiers.”

But the court gave the Republican attorney general a less serious punishment than a suspension of at least 60 days recommended by a hearing officer for his actions during a party marking the end of the 2018 legislative session.

Hill, who has resisted calls for his resignation from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state GOP leaders, said in a statement he accepted the court’s decision with “humility and respect.”

He named his chief deputy to oversee the attorney general’s office until his suspension ends June 17.

Hill’s statement released by his office made no mention of the allegations or the women who accused him of groping them.

“I offer my deepest gratitude to my family, friends and the entire staff of the Office of the Attorney General,” Hill said. “My staff has worked tirelessly and without interruption and will continue to do so on behalf of all Hoosiers.”

Hill has denied doing anything wrong, testifying during a hearing in October that he briefly touched Democratic 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.

Reardon testified that Hill, smelling of alcohol and with glassy eyes, was holding a drink in his right hand and put his left hand on her shoulder, then slid his hand down her dress to clench her buttocks. “A squeeze, a firm grasp,” she said.

Hill, 59, also refuted testimony from three female legislative staffers — ages 23 to 26 at the time — that he inappropriately touched their backs or buttocks and made unwelcomed sexual comments during the party.

The court agreed with a finding from the hearing officer, former state Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby, that Hill crossed a line.

“The long, lingering, and meandering touches described by the four women and others, the various reactions of those who experienced or observed those touches, and the numerous other accounts of (Hill’s) conduct at the bar, all offer ample support for the hearing officer’s ultimate finding on this point,” the ruling said.

Hill’s attorneys questioned whether his actions were misinterpreted during the party, where alcohol was flowing along with loud music and conversation.

They also argue that he didn’t do anything improper as a lawyer and shouldn’t face law license sanctions because a special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against him.

The court’s order directs Hill to not undertake any legal matters beginning May 18 for 30 days.

The order allows Hill for automatic reinstatement of Hill’s license, differing from the hearing officer’s recommendation that Hill go through a reinstatement process that could have taken a year to complete.

It is unclear how the decision impacts Hill’s ability to serve as state government’s top lawyer.

State law requires the attorney general to be “duly licensed to practice law in Indiana,” but it doesn’t specify whether the person can continue serving after facing professional disciplinary action.

The Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t address whether he continues as attorney general.

Holcomb said Monday that he still believes Hill should resign from office.

He said his legal staff was researching whether he could appoint a new attorney general even though the disciplinary charges were first filed against Hill more than a year ago.

“I am seeking a quick turnaround on those questions to be answered,” Holcomb said.

Hill, who had been viewed as a rising African American star in the Republican Party, is seeking election to a second term this year.

Hill has aimed to build support among social conservatives with actions such as presiding over the burial more than 2,400 fetuses found at Chicago-area properties linked to a deceased Indiana abortion doctor and appearances on Fox News to discuss topics such as San Francisco’s troubles with homelessness.

Two Republicans are challenging Hill for the party’s attorney general nomination, which is to be decided during the GOP state convention scheduled for June 20.

Some Republicans argue nominating Hill puts the GOP’s hold on the office in jeopardy even though Democrats last won a statewide election in 2012.

A top official of the Indiana Democratic Party called Hill a “disgrace” whose conduct was “repulsive.”

“Now the uncertainty created by his punishment could tip the state into a constitutional crisis,” said Lauren Ganapini, the party’s executive director. “Over and over, Indiana Republicans failed to remove him. They now own his shameful conduct and the crisis it’s created.”

You can read the full decision below.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 767409

Reported Deaths: 13980
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1054251805
Lake569191030
Allen42938698
St. Joseph37313568
Hamilton37298426
Elkhart29749470
Tippecanoe23479230
Vanderburgh23201405
Porter19573327
Johnson18822392
Hendricks18072321
Madison13548346
Clark13533198
Vigo12834256
LaPorte12566225
Monroe12546178
Delaware11143198
Howard10672237
Kosciusko9777124
Hancock8740150
Bartholomew8262157
Warrick8069157
Floyd8027182
Grant7366181
Wayne7233201
Boone7184105
Morgan6910143
Marshall6332116
Dubois6274118
Cass6090111
Dearborn601278
Noble599290
Henry5947111
Jackson516377
Shelby510898
Lawrence4922127
Gibson462696
Montgomery458192
Clinton455255
DeKalb455285
Harrison453577
Whitley415745
Huntington415582
Steuben410660
Miami405573
Jasper401155
Knox388391
Putnam385062
Wabash369083
Adams352956
Ripley351271
Jefferson341886
White339654
Daviess3090100
Wells303581
Greene293485
Decatur292593
Fayette286364
Posey281735
Scott280058
LaGrange277572
Clay273348
Washington254037
Randolph247783
Jennings239449
Spencer238731
Fountain235250
Starke229859
Owen222659
Sullivan221343
Fulton208345
Jay202932
Carroll197322
Orange191156
Perry189739
Vermillion180844
Rush177527
Tipton172747
Franklin171935
Parke155216
Pike141734
Blackford138032
Pulaski123648
Newton123036
Benton109715
Brown106043
Crawford105616
Martin92515
Warren87715
Switzerland8348
Union73610
Ohio58111
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1123964

Reported Deaths: 20490
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1304331493
Cuyahoga1172542263
Hamilton824421261
Montgomery535421062
Summit489021014
Lucas43747834
Butler40000614
Stark33837939
Lorain26029510
Warren24919312
Mahoning22710613
Lake21472396
Clermont20391261
Delaware19143138
Licking16863227
Trumbull16801492
Fairfield16793207
Medina15861276
Greene15528254
Clark14352308
Portage13432218
Wood13343201
Allen12049245
Richland11740213
Miami11019228
Wayne9258228
Columbiana9204236
Muskingum9133137
Pickaway8750123
Tuscarawas8718255
Marion8710140
Erie8135166
Ashtabula7281179
Hancock7048135
Ross7024165
Geauga6962153
Scioto6701108
Belmont6222179
Lawrence5947104
Union590949
Jefferson5725162
Huron5638122
Sandusky5488130
Darke5444131
Seneca5377128
Washington5371111
Athens526960
Auglaize507487
Mercer491185
Shelby482797
Knox4614113
Madison447566
Ashland444898
Defiance438799
Fulton436375
Putnam4354104
Crawford4114111
Brown409662
Preble3949107
Logan392179
Clinton390766
Ottawa375881
Highland366068
Williams356678
Champaign349660
Guernsey330554
Jackson321354
Perry298850
Morrow294743
Fayette289150
Hardin279365
Henry277167
Coshocton272961
Holmes2725102
Van Wert252265
Adams249858
Gallia249850
Pike244737
Wyandot235257
Hocking222963
Carroll201249
Paulding179942
Meigs151240
Monroe137945
Noble137739
Harrison115238
Morgan111624
Vinton87317
Unassigned04
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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Huntington
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Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
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Decatur
Partly Cloudy
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Van Wert
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