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: 1000163

Reported Deaths: 16309
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1347632106
Lake660041156
Allen57441793
Hamilton46100461
St. Joseph44109607
Elkhart35696507
Vanderburgh32087477
Tippecanoe27796257
Johnson24902443
Hendricks23738354
Porter22802362
Madison18614404
Clark18424250
Vigo17347301
Monroe15180197
LaPorte15046250
Delaware14984259
Howard14626287
Kosciusko12217147
Hancock11630175
Bartholomew11505179
Warrick11255189
Floyd11013214
Wayne10897250
Grant9964218
Morgan9404176
Boone8863116
Dubois8227130
Dearborn817093
Henry8139151
Noble7984106
Marshall7838134
Cass7499119
Lawrence7403170
Shelby7138114
Jackson694088
Gibson6533113
Harrison644491
Huntington633999
Knox6273106
DeKalb626397
Montgomery6208109
Miami589797
Putnam575377
Clinton570271
Whitley560455
Steuben554675
Wabash5279101
Jasper524475
Jefferson506996
Ripley495685
Adams476073
Daviess4616113
Scott435869
Greene422096
Wells420987
Clay420260
White415962
Decatur4133101
Fayette404286
Jennings385160
Posey375343
LaGrange353978
Washington353249
Randolph341999
Spencer337342
Fountain332558
Sullivan326752
Starke313369
Owen312070
Fulton306567
Orange291762
Jay280445
Perry264752
Franklin264042
Carroll259132
Rush258832
Vermillion255454
Parke230026
Pike227943
Tipton226659
Blackford190540
Pulaski181855
Crawford158623
Newton156048
Benton150217
Brown144547
Martin137419
Switzerland134211
Warren120516
Union106815
Ohio84112
Unassigned0538

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1499485

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1626291662
Cuyahoga1447662412
Hamilton1044761409
Montgomery731681240
Summit610421094
Lucas55643904
Butler51076707
Stark459431053
Lorain35141568
Warren32476369
Mahoning30315672
Clermont27930321
Lake26669434
Delaware23960162
Licking23547283
Trumbull22550552
Fairfield22179241
Greene22098311
Medina21763305
Clark19630349
Richland18342280
Portage17696247
Wood17244220
Allen15730269
Miami15355296
Muskingum14551174
Columbiana13756263
Wayne13585263
Tuscarawas12479298
Marion11797175
Scioto11388154
Pickaway11286141
Erie10676180
Ross10462196
Lawrence9663137
Hancock9546149
Ashtabula9479197
Belmont9133197
Geauga8829157
Jefferson8481191
Huron8229139
Union810756
Washington8031137
Sandusky7724145
Athens769572
Knox7606138
Darke7553151
Seneca7208144
Ashland6817125
Auglaize667896
Shelby6410111
Brown628582
Crawford6184130
Defiance6087102
Mercer608293
Fulton592996
Highland590099
Madison587576
Clinton576190
Logan574692
Guernsey572467
Preble5660121
Putnam5250108
Williams520184
Perry512561
Champaign505071
Jackson498770
Ottawa479086
Coshocton471582
Morrow451256
Pike430762
Fayette422160
Adams411587
Gallia411265
Hardin411076
Van Wert364078
Henry357871
Holmes3567122
Hocking352578
Wyandot317961
Carroll297059
Paulding275945
Meigs259249
Monroe212953
Noble196546
Morgan190832
Harrison178242
Vinton162624
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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Huntington
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Decatur
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Feels Like: 44°
Van Wert
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The wonderful weather continues across the region Tuesday with our next chance of rain midweek.
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