Indiana attorney general also facing sex proposition claim

Regional News

FILE – In this Oct. 3, 2019, file photo, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill holds a press conference in South Bend, Ind. Lawyers for Hill are trying to block two women from testifying about previous sexual misconduct allegations as he faces claims that he drunkenly groped four women at a bar last year. The state’s attorney disciplinary commission wants the women to testify about Hill’s actions when he was the Elkhart County prosecutor before becoming attorney general in 2017. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s attorney general took the witness stand Wednesday at a disciplinary hearing on allegations that he drunkenly groped four women at a bar last year, following the testimony of a former employee who alleged he propositioned her for sex.

Attorney General Curtis Hill wasn’t immediately asked about the groping allegations or sexual proposition claim before his testimony was halted for a lunch break and for other witnesses.

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.” Bower 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 that Hill replied, “Were we ever talking about dance?”

Hill 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.

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 include dismissing the complaint, a reprimand and temporary suspension or permanent removal of Hill’s law license.

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