Criminal Justice

Indiana AG won't be charged for alleged groping; prosecutor says he can't prove intent

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Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. Photo by Matt Nichols for the Department of Justice, via Wikimedia Commons.

A special prosecutor won’t charge Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill with battery for allegedly touching four women inappropriately during an end-of-the-legislative session party in March.

In a press conference on Tuesday, special prosecutor Daniel Sigler said he found the four accusers—including a state representative—to be credible, but he doesn’t believe he can prove intent needed to prove simple battery, report the Indianapolis Star and the Associated Press. The misdemeanor requires proof that one person touched another in a rude, insolent or angry manner, according to Sigler’s report.

Sigler also said the setting created challenges. The party “took place in a relatively small bar, patrons were at close quarters, the time was after midnight, free alcoholic drinks were provided, and most people were consuming and feeling the effects of that consumption,” his report said. “These conditions can impact a person’s ability to perceive and accurately recall events and circumstances.”

Hill didn’t deny that touching occurred, but he said it was incidental to conversation or movement in a crowded bar. The touching was not intended to be disrespectful, sexual in nature or rude, Hill had said in a statement he provided to investigators.

Sigler said, at best, the evidence regarding intent is Hill “was overly friendly and touchy with everyone in the establishment as the apparent result of alcohol consumption. Inappropriate or intoxicated behavior does not automatically equate to criminal behavior.”

Sigler made his decision following an investigation by police and Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres, who released her report on Tuesday, the Indianapolis Star reported in a separate story.

“Multiple eyewitnesses provided statements that Hill’s conduct was inappropriate, ‘creepy,’ unwelcome, and made many of the women at the party uncomfortable,” the report said. Republicans and Democrats, along with lobbyists, gave witness accounts.

The women who accused Sigler are Democratic state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon; two legislative assistants, one for Democrats and the other for Republicans; and a communications director for Indiana Senate Democrats.

Reardon accused Hill of putting his hand on her back (she was wearing a backless dress), sliding it down and grabbing her buttocks. The legislator said Hill’s thumb was inside her dress, and his hand was outside the dress. A witness said she saw the legislator mouth “What the f—” after Hill touched her.

Another woman also claimed Hill moved his hand up and down her back and grabbed her buttocks when she tried to push his hand away. A third said he rubbed his hand up and down her back for a sustained period. She mouthed “help me” to her intern, who approached and asked the woman to accompany her to the bathroom. A fourth said Hill grabbed her by the waist and pulled her close to him.

“All but one of the women who alleged Hill inappropriately touched them were in their 20s and new in their careers,” the inspector general’s report said. “This demonstrates the disparate power, influence, authority and age that exists between Hill and the women who made allegations against him.”

A lawyer for the women said a tort claim has been filed with the state, a prerequisite for the lawsuit the clients intend to file.

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