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.

Confirmed Cases: 46915

Reported Deaths: 2681
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11499683
Lake5053242
Elkhart316443
Allen2717128
St. Joseph186366
Cass16369
Hamilton1518100
Hendricks1386100
Johnson1254118
Porter71237
Tippecanoe6778
Madison64864
Clark63844
Bartholomew58244
Howard56057
LaPorte55326
Kosciusko5124
Vanderburgh4806
Jackson4653
LaGrange4657
Noble45728
Hancock43735
Boone43443
Delaware42949
Marshall4273
Shelby42025
Floyd37144
Morgan32531
Montgomery29320
Grant29026
Clinton2852
Monroe26628
Dubois2646
White26010
Decatur24832
Henry24315
Lawrence23624
Vigo2288
Dearborn22723
Harrison21022
Warrick21029
Greene18432
Miami1812
Jennings17111
Putnam1688
Scott1607
DeKalb1594
Daviess14116
Orange13523
Wayne1346
Perry1279
Steuben1262
Franklin1248
Jasper1142
Ripley1147
Carroll1102
Wabash1102
Fayette987
Newton9710
Whitley884
Starke853
Randolph784
Huntington712
Wells711
Jefferson701
Fulton681
Jay680
Washington661
Knox630
Pulaski621
Clay604
Gibson592
Rush563
Adams481
Benton480
Owen471
Sullivan441
Brown381
Blackford372
Posey360
Spencer351
Fountain302
Tipton301
Crawford290
Switzerland260
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Warren141
Union130
Vermillion130
Pike90
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 55257

Reported Deaths: 2903
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin9825417
Cuyahoga7392372
Hamilton5605197
Marion273038
Lucas2669302
Pickaway218441
Summit2079206
Montgomery191826
Mahoning1805231
Butler151144
Columbiana128860
Stark1079112
Lorain98367
Trumbull91665
Warren81421
Clark7619
Belmont54322
Delaware54115
Fairfield52916
Tuscarawas52910
Medina50632
Lake48018
Miami45531
Licking44212
Portage42858
Ashtabula42544
Wood40451
Geauga39942
Clermont3906
Wayne35951
Richland3255
Allen30540
Mercer2788
Darke24525
Greene2449
Erie23422
Holmes2203
Huron1992
Madison1928
Ottawa13923
Crawford1345
Washington13020
Putnam12615
Sandusky12614
Hardin12012
Morrow1161
Ross1133
Auglaize1044
Coshocton902
Monroe8817
Jefferson832
Union801
Hancock781
Hocking788
Muskingum761
Preble701
Williams682
Guernsey673
Lawrence670
Clinton660
Shelby644
Fulton610
Ashland581
Carroll583
Logan581
Wyandot585
Brown541
Defiance493
Fayette460
Knox451
Highland441
Athens431
Champaign391
Scioto380
Seneca332
Perry321
Van Wert320
Henry290
Paulding230
Adams221
Pike220
Vinton222
Jackson180
Gallia141
Harrison121
Meigs110
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
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