Indiana attorney general also facing sex proposition claim

Tom Davies
Associated Press

Indianapolis – A woman who worked for Curtis Hill before he became Indiana’s attorney general testified at his disciplinary hearing Wednesday that he twice propositioned her for sex, including just days after four other women allege he drunkenly groped them at a bar.

Hill took the witness stand for about a half hour but wasn’t immediately asked about the groping allegations or sexual proposition claim before his testimony was halted for other witnesses. The hearing could lead to actions against his law license, ranging from reprimands to disbarment.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill arrives for a hearing at the state Supreme Court in the Statehouse, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Indianapolis. Hill faces a hearing over whether allegations that he drunkenly groped four women at a bar amounted to professional misconduct.

The former state Supreme Court justice overseeing the disciplinary hearing rejected an attempt by Hill’s attorney to prevent testimony from the woman, who worked under him when he was the Elkhart County prosecutor. Hill took office as attorney general in early 2017.

Kathleen Bowers, who is a victims’ advocate in Elkhart County, said Hill leaned over her desk at the end of a conversation in December 2016, telling her they should have sex “because it would be hot.” Bowers said she refused but that Hill asked her again during a March 2018 phone call.

That was within days of the party at an Indianapolis bar during which state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and three female legislative staffers said Hill inappropriately touched their backs or buttocks and made unwelcomed sexual comments.

Bowers said the first sexual proposition from Hill followed comments over several months from him after seeing her perform in a local dance competition. She said Hill repeatedly asked for dancing lesson from her, saying he should “get one for free” and “we’d have to do something hot.”

Bowers testified that before Hill propositioned her the first time, she told him she didn’t think their conversation was about dancing anymore. She said Hill replied, “Were we ever talking about dance?”

Hill, who could resume testifying Thursday, disputes the groping claims against him. His lawyers are questioning whether his actions were misinterpreted during the party marking the end of the 2018 legislative session, where alcohol was flowing along with loud music and conversation.

Tony Samuel, a lobbyist and prominent Republican who was vice chairman of Donald Trump’s 2016 Indiana presidential campaign, testified that he invited Hill along to the legislative party after having food and drinks with him at two downtown Indianapolis restaurants.

Samuel described Hill as being “loose, friendly, in a good mood” at the party and not highly intoxicated. Samuel estimated he and Hill were at the party for about two hours and spent at least a quarter of the time together. He said he didn’t see Hill doing anything inappropriate and believed people would’ve complained to him since many saw him enter the bar with the attorney general.

“I didn’t see it and think there would’ve been a buzz about it,” said Samuel, who later helped Hill coordinate his denials of the groping allegations after they became public in July 2018.

Hill, a 58-year-old Republican, has resisted calls from GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state government leaders to resign. Hill’s attorneys argue that he didn’t do anything improper as a lawyer and shouldn’t face law license sanctions because he was cleared by a special prosecutor.

Reardon and one Republican and two Democratic legislative staffers – ages 23 to 26 at the time of the party – have filed a federal lawsuit against Hill alleging sexual harassment and defamation. A special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against Hill, and a state inspector general’s report determined Hill didn’t break any state ethics rules.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby is presiding at the hearing that could last through Friday. She will later issue a report to the state Supreme Court, which could take actions ranging from dismissing the complaint, a reprimand and temporary suspension or permanent removal of Hill’s law license.