Supporters of embattled Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill have created a nonprofit to raise money for his legal defense amid allegations the Republican drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three legislative staffers.
Indiana attorney James Bopp Jr. and former Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Linda Chezem said Monday that the nonprofit accepts tax-deductible donations for paying Hill’s legal bills. Bopp said the fund has been organized as a 501(c)3. The nonprofit will accept money from private individuals and entities but not from the government, he said. Under federal law, the fund will report contributions of more than $5,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS does not publicly disclose those donors.
Hill’s backers say he has been treated unfairly. Chezem said the allegations against Hill are riddled with “inconsistencies and contradictions.” She faulted the investigation, saying it was not professionally conducted, relied solely on unsworn statements and did not interview either Hill or the people who invited him to the party where the groping incidents are alleged to have taken place.
“We’re not defending sexual harassment as we each understand the term,” Chezem said. “Under Indiana law, the touching of another person is not inappropriate behavior unless it is rude, angry, or insolent touching. Merely touching without more is not sexual assault nor is it harassment. So an important question to be addressed is what standard defines sexual harassment in a shoulder-to-shoulder, elbow to elbow, crowded legislative party after midnight.”
A confidential legislative memo leaked to the media alleges Hill groped the four women during a party in March at an Indianapolis bar. The party was held to mark the end of the legislative session.
Three of the women later went public, including Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon.
Hill has denied the allegations and rejected calls to resign from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other GOP leaders.
Chezem said the way the allegations have been handled has been unfair to Hill and to the women accusers. She compared the treatment of Hill to the reception she received when advocating in the 1970s for the Equal Rights Amendment.
“I was figuratively patted on the head, told to go home, be a nice girl, have babies,” she said. “It stings to see the same condescending and arrogant attitude I encountered then now directed toward Curtis Hill, Rep. Reardon and the other women in this story.”