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Attorney General Curtis Hill testifies he didn't grope women

By TOM DAVIES Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's attorney general testified Thursday that he did nothing wrong at a party where a state lawmaker and three legislative staffers say he drunkenly groped them, allegations that could threaten his law license and ability to remain in office.

Republican Curtis Hill was far less defiant during his hearing on professional misconduct charges than when he labeled the charges "vicious and false" after they became public last year. However, he said he quickly felt he was under an unfair attack from the initial review of the allegations directed by legislative leaders without his knowledge.

Hill testified he briefly touched Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon's back while leaning in to hear what she was saying during the March 2018 party and was startled to realize she was wearing a backless dress. Hill said "absolutely not" when asked whether he grabbed Reardon's buttocks, an allegation she made from the witness stand on Monday.

Hill, 58, also refuted testimony from the three female staffers — ages 23 to 26 at the time — that he inappropriately touched their backs or buttocks and made unwelcomed sexual comments during the party at an Indianapolis bar marking the end of the legislative session.

"I didn't touch any woman in a sensual or intimate manner," Hill said.

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 open-back dress to clench her buttocks. "A squeeze, a firm grasp," she said.

Hill admitted to drinking perhaps three glasses of wine, a vodka martini and a shot of whiskey over about five hours that night as he stopped at two restaurants with friends before going to the party about midnight.

"I don't believe I was intoxicated to the point I couldn't control myself," Hill said.

Hill will continue testifying Thursday afternoon. His lawyers have questioned 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, whose term runs through 2020, has resisted calls from Republican 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.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby is presiding at the hearing that began on Monday.

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. State law requires the attorney general to be "duly licensed to practice law in Indiana."

Copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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