No criminal charges, but AG Hill faces suits from accusers

After the special prosecutor announced his decision Tuesday not to bring charges against Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, the four women who have accused the state’s top lawyer of sexual misconduct stepped into the public spotlight together and said they are not done fighting.

“What has happened today has told women that when we come forward, that when we share what happened to us, that we can be believed, but that doesn’t really mean anything,” said Gabrielle McLemore, communications director for the Indiana Senate Democrats. “… We put ourselves out there, we put our jobs and reputations on the line just to be told, ‘you’re believed, but there’s nothing we can do.’ So we’re just taking that next step to see if there is something we can do.”

McLemore, along with Niki DaSilva, legislative assistant for the Indiana Senate Republicans, Samantha Lozano, legislative assistant for the Indiana House Democrats, and Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, have all claimed Hill touched them inappropriately and made unwanted advances at them during a party in March.

They told their stories to legislators who initially investigated the incident. Then they, again, told what had happened to the Indiana Inspector General and the special prosecutor, Dan Sigler, senior prosecuting attorney from Allen County.

Speaking at a news conference at the Marion County prosecutor’s office Tuesday, Sigler said he believed the women and found them credible. However, he declined to file charges, saying he did not have sufficient evidence to prove Hill touched the women in a manner that was rude, insolent or angry, as the law requires.

Now the women have given notice they intend pursue state and federal civil claims against Hill, the Indiana Attorney General’s office and the state of Indiana. When the special prosecutor concluded his remarks at the press conference, the women and their attorneys from Katz Korin Cunningham crowded around the microphones. They did not coordinate their appearance with Sigler.  

The Katz Korin Cunningham attorneys who are representing the women — BJ Brinkerhoff, Hannah Kaufman Joseph and Kimberly Jeselskis — said a tort claim notice has been filed with state, stating their intention to file claims for assault, battery, defamation and false imprisonment. In addition, they have filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“I am proud to stand with these brave women who have the courage to come forward and make their voices heard,” Reardon said. “We embark on this journey together to fight for the protection of individuals who deserve to feel safe at their workplace.”

Sigler said the allegations against Hill lent themselves to two potential charges — sexual battery, a felony, and simple battery of touching someone in a rude, insolent or angry manner, a misdemeanor. He quickly decided the sexual battery charge was not appropriate because he did not find that the attorney general used force.

To prove simple battery, Sigler said he would have had to known what Hill was thinking at the time of the incident.

In his report, the special prosecutor stated, “At best the evidence regarding the essential element of Hill’s intent is that he 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.”

Hill’s defense attorneys at Voyles Vaiana Lukemeyer Baldwin & Webb claimed the special prosecutor had exonerated the attorney general. A statement from the firm also indicated that despite ongoing calls for Hill to resign, he intends to stay in office.

“We never doubted that Mr. Hill would be cleared of any alleged crimes,” the Voyles firm stated. “… Mr. Hill will continue to serve the people of Indiana in the capacity for which he was elected as the Indiana Attorney General.”

Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, released a statement, similarly noting Hill will likely remain in office.

“Hoosiers expect better from the people they elect to represent them in state government, especially when the individual involved is the chief law enforcement officer for the state of Indiana. I called for the Attorney General to step down in July, and I continue to believe that is the right thing for him to do. However, it appears that he has no intention to do so, and that is his decision alone to make at this time. The people of Indiana will have the final say in this matter.”

Sigler said Hill submitted a video statement and responded for follow-up questions as part of the special prosecutor’s investigation.

“From his statement, he does not deny touching,” Sigler said of Hill. “… There’s no denial that there was touching; there’s disagreement as to the extent of it.”

Moreover, Sigler said Hill’s consumption of alcohol the night of the party was significant.

Sneate Minority Caucus Chair Karen Tallian, D-Portage, said she was disappointed in the special prosecutor’s decision not to file charges.

“As the law enforcement officer for the State of Indiana, the Attorney General’s conduct should be above reproach,” Tallian said in a statement. “Instead, we have the hypocrisy of a person expounding the virtue of law enforcement, the morality of family values, the wickedness of marijuana and the evil of women’s choice – all the while drunkenly groping young women at a bar late into the night.”

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