Commission recommends 2 year suspension of AG Curtis Hill's law license
The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission has recommended Attorney General Curtis Hill's law license be suspended for two years because of his behavior towards several female colleagues at a bar in Indianapolis.
The commission presented its case before a hearing officer over the course of four days in October.
The court documents lay out the commission's case against Hill.
On March 14, 2018, at the end of the legislative session, legislators, staff and lobbyists gathered at AJ's Lounge in Indianapolis that evening.
Representative Mara Candelaria Reardon arrived to the party at approximately 1 a.m. As the two spoke, Reardon was wearing a dress with her back exposed.
She said Hill placed his hand on her shoulder, ran it all the way down her bare back, then when his hand approached her buttocks, he placed his thumb under the fabric and had his hand outside the fabric. She said he then grasped or squeezed her buttocks, according to the hearing officer's report.
Reardon said, "Back off, what the [expletive deleted]" and walked away, reports said.
Hill testified he did place his hands on Reardon's back, but denied grabbing her buttocks.
The hearing officer stated Hill's testimony was not credible.
A short time later, Hill approached Reardon, touched her back and said "That skin, that back," according to Reardon's testimony.
Hill denied touching Reardon's back a second time, but the hearing officer found his testimony not credible, according to court documents.
Reardon testified she was going to privately confront Hill about his actions until she learned, about a month later, that other staff had similar experiences the night of the March party, reports said.
A legislative assistant testified she was ordering a drink at the bar when she said something about it being hot. She said Hill replied, "Yes, you are really hot."
After the comment, the assistant testified Hill wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her close to him, reports said.
The assistant testified she felt uncomfortable and did not want to draw attention to herself, so she signaled to a friend she needed help, reports said.
She was able to get away from Hill when her friend intervened, reports said.
Hill did not deny touching the assistant, but said he was guiding her to the bar, according to court documents.
The hearing officer said Hill's testimony was not credible.
The assistant testified she didn't report what happened until she learned an investigation was being conducted and she was hopeful there was a process that would protect her, reports said.
A second legislative assistant, who intervened with the legislative assistant who was at the bar, also had an encounter with Hill that evening, reports said.
The second assistant said when she intervened to help her friend, Hill placed his hand on her back. She tried to move his hand away, but Hill grabbed her wrist and hand and touched her buttocks, court records said.
She testified he pulled her arm forcefully.
She also testified because Hill was an elected official, she didn't feel she could say anything about his conduct, reports said.
Hill testified he didn't remember touching the second woman and denied touching her buttocks, reports said.
The hearing officer found Hill's testimony not credible.
The second woman testified after she reported the incident, people interacted with her differently and she moved to a new job.
A fourth woman, a press secretary, testified she was sitting at the bar around 3 a.m. when Hill sat next to her, asked if she knew who he was, and started rubbing her back in a sensual manner, the woman testified.
She said the back rub went on an uncomfortable amount of time and didn't feel she could tell him to stop because of his position, reports said.
The press secretary mouthed to a friend to help her and the two women went into the restroom, reports said.
She testified the way he touched her was not appropriate way to touch a stranger, reports said.
Hill denied rubbing her back for several minutes or in a sensual manner. He also testified he didn't remember meeting the woman at the event, but he recalls a different event where he spoke to a woman at the bar and put his hand on her shoulder, reports said.
The hearing officer found Hill's testimony not credible.
In the conclusion of the report, the hearing officer found Hill violated the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys at Law, as charged.
The hearing officer found:
- Hill committed battery, a class B misdemeanor, when he touched Reardon's back and grabbing her buttocks.
- Hill committed battery, a class B misdemeanor, when he touched Reardon's back a second time.
- Hill committed battery, a class B misdemeanor, when he put his arm around the legislative assistant's waist and pulled her to him.
- Hill committed sexual battery when using force to touch the second legislative assistant's buttocks.
- Hill committed battery, a class B misdemeanor, when he rubbed the press secretary's back.
The hearing officer found the acts reflected poorly on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.
As part of the report, the hearing officer discussed aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
The aggravating circumstances include Hill's behavior's negative impact on the public's perception of the legal profession and the Attorney General's office.
Hill is also accused of inappropriate behavior towards a victim's advocate while he was the Elkhart County Prosecutor.
Hill is alleged to have worked to discredit the victims and the members of the disciplinary commission.
Emails show under Hill's supervision, his paid media consultants and supporters drafted and coordinated op-eds and phony letters to the editor to make it appear as though he has a large number of supporters.
Another email circulated dossiers on the members of the disciplinary commission and discussed sending the info to conservative media, "that Holcomb cronies and liberals are driving this," according to court records.
The hearing officer also alleges Hill used state resources to defend himself. Several emails showed AG employees coordinated the media campaign and corresponded with defense attorneys during work hours, reports said.
It is also alleged Hill showed no remorse and displayed dishonesty during his testimony.
Hill also used defense tactics that focused on what the victims were wearing, what they were drinking, who they were dancing with, if they posed for a photo and whether they were overreacting to flirting, according to court records.
The report did not list any mitigating factors.
In the proposed decision, the hearing officer recommended suspending Hill's law license for 2 years without automatic reinstatement.
[Hill] grabbed, groped, rubbed and touched professional acquaintances and strangers without their consent. He caused them to feel shame, fear, anger and embarrassment. His stature as Attorney General heightened the harm to the Victims and made them rightfully fearful of reacting in the moment and of retaliation for reporting later. Respondent’s conduct for any person is abhorrent. For a lawyer and public official, it establishes a lack of self-restraint that raises questions about fitness in other respects. Respondent’s actions were not the result of a one night of overindulgence, but fit into a pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Respondent’s actions were deliberate and intentional, not inadvertent. He has given false testimony. Respondent has failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing and lacks insight into his misconduct. He has used his office staff and others to create a false narrative to discredit the victims.
The seriousness of this matter cannot be overstated. It is important to restore faith in our legal system. The crimes of the attorney general have dealt a significant blow to that faith and restoration of that faith requires a significant response.
For all of the reason stated above, the Hearing Officer submits that a suspension of no less than two years without automatic reinstatement is appropriate in this case.
Hill filed an opposition to the proposal alleging that even if he had committed the alleged behavior, it has no bearing on his work as an attorney.
He also cited the fact despite a special prosecutor's investigation, no criminal charges were ever filed against him.
The Indiana Supreme Court will determine what discipline Hill will face, if any.