Embattled Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is doubling down on his criticisms of the groping allegations against him and the stories of the alleged victims, releasing an email from one of the victims that he says shows intentional coordination of the victims’ stories.
According to a statement released by Hill’s office on Thursday afternoon, an email from Niki DaSilva, a Senate Republican legislative staffer who identified herself as one of Hill’s four accusers, was received in the Office of the Attorney General on Wednesday. The email, sent from DaSilva’s legislative email address, was blind copied to a “close friend,” who had an office of the attorney general email address. However, according to Hill, the close friend was recently terminated.
In the email, DaSilva attached a draft of the statement that she released to media outlets on Thursday, when she described standing at the bar at AJ’s Lounge in the early morning hours of March 15 while Hill allegedly slid his hand down her back before groping her buttocks. DaSilva also alleged Hill told a group of women they should “show a little skin” to receive faster service.
DaSilva’s statement came almost one week after Democratic State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon came forward and also alleged Hill groped her buttocks at least once, then tried to do so a second time. A second alleged victim, Senate minority communications director Gabrielle McLemore, also came forward last week and alleged the attorney general rubbed her back without her permission. The fourth alleged victim has not come forward.
Hill has defied calls from Gov. Eric Holcomb and Republican and Democratic legislative leaders to resign.
Reardon, McLemore and DaSilva’s statements each came on the heels of the release of a confidential memorandum detailing lawmakers’ response to the allegations against Hill. The memo was prepared at the request of state legislative leaders by Indianapolis law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister, LLP, which was hired to review the legislative investigation.
Since the memo was leaked, Hill has denied the accusations and blasted the investigation, which began in mid-May but which he said was not shared with him until June 29, just days before news of the allegations became public on July 2. He said he released DaSilva’s email Thursday as evidence of a “coordinated” attack.
In the email, DaSilva asks the blind-copied recipient(s) to “(l)et (her) know if there are any grammatical errors or phrases that need to be changed/strengthened/eliminated.” An Indiana Lawyer review of the draft version of DaSilva’s statement in the email and the version that was published shows several stylistic changes between the two versions, but the substance of the allegations is consistent in both drafts.
In the email draft, DaSilva recalled the alleged groping in this way: “I felt his hand start to slide slowly down my back. I didn’t want to bring attention to this so I tried to push his hand away inconspicuously using my free hand. When our hands met, instead of taking this nudge as a cue to remove his hand from my lower back, he grabbed my hand toward my wrist and moved it over my butt with his hand before releasing me.”
DaSilva’s published statement varies only slightly: “I felt his hand start to slide slowly down my back. I didn’t want to bring attention to his actions so I tried to push his hand away inconspicuously using my free hand. When our hands met, instead of taking this nudge as a cue to remove his hand from my lower back, he grabbed my hand and moved both of our hands over my butt, lingering there before releasing me.”
Hill, however, had a different reading of the email.
“In her draft ‘story,’ she editorialized her recollection of events,” he said in a press release sent from the Indiana Attorney General’s official email account Thursday. Hill has also posted several news releases defending his action and attacking his accusers on the taxpayer-funded Indiana Attorney General website and on the AG's official social media accounts.
“It’s clear that the integrity of this investigation is compromised. The various stories appear to be coordinated and changed under the direction of others,” he continued. “We believe these emails could be material to an investigation. We would hope that any emails sent on state equipment between the accuser and others be preserved and not deleted.”
As House Speaker Brian Bosma, Senate President pro tem David Long and Gov. Eric Holcomb, all Republicans, were calling on Hill to resign last week, Bosma and Long also urged the Indiana Inspector General to open an investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations. The IG’s office has since done so, but Hill released a statement on July 6 saying the investigation could not be independent because Holcomb “has already determined the outcome of the investigation.”
Instead, Hill’s July 6 statement urged the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation, but he followed up on Monday with more general calls for a “proper” review of the allegations. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, a Democrat, announced Tuesday that Marion Superior Judge Lisa Borges had granted his motion to appoint a special prosecutor to confer with the Inspector General’s investigation. Curry said Hill’s office is currently representing him in two civil cases pursuant to statute, so it would be improper for Curry’s office to get involved with any investigation against Hill.
In addition to Hill’s criticism of the legislative investigation, legal ethics and sexual harassment law experts have questioned whether legislative leaders handled the allegations properly. Many of those involved, including Bosma, Long and Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, are attorneys who legal ethics experts say may have had a duty to report Hill’s alleged conduct to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. The Taft memo, however, found that no such duty exists, and lawmakers have said they resolved the issue to the satisfaction of the victims.