Following two dismissals from the Indiana Southern District Court, the four women who have accused Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill of sexual misconduct are taking their claims for battery, defamation and invasion of privacy to state court.
Also, the women have filed a federal appeal of court rulings that dismissed Hill as a defendant in their ongoing civil case.
The state court case was filed July 7 in Marion Superior Court before Civil Division 12 Judge P.J. Dietrick. The only defendant is Hill, who is sued in his individual capacity related to a March 2018 incident where he allegedly groped the four women: State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, Gabrielle McLemore Brock, Niki DaSilva and Samantha Lozano.
After the allegations became public, the women say Hill began a public campaign that challenged their credibility. They are now seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Hill, as well as a retraction of his allegedly defamatory statements.
“Hill had knowledge of or acted in reckless disregard as to the falsity of the published statements that directly or implicitly accused Plaintiffs of misconduct in their trade, profession, office or occupation and the false light in which Plaintiffs would be placed by those statements,” the complaint in Niki Dasilva, et al. v. Curtis T. Hill, Jr., 49D12-2007-CT-022288, says. “As a direct and proximate result of Hill’s placing Plaintiffs in a false light by publishing statements that directly or implicitly accused Plaintiffs of misconduct in their trade, profession, office or occupation, Plaintiffs have sustained damages.”
The state court filing comes after Indiana Southern District Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson dismissed the claims for battery, defamation and false light invasion of privacy in the women’s pending federal case.
First in March, Magnus-Stinson dismissed the state-law claims without prejudice, with leave to refile them in state court. In the June decision, the chief judge explicitly declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims.
Also, the federal court in March ruled that the state of Indiana was not a proper defendant in the case because it was not the women’s “employer.”
An amended filing added the Indiana House and Senate as defendants. That portion of the federal complaint, alleging discrimination and retaliation, was allowed to proceed.
However, the June ruling had the effect of dismissing Hill entirely as a defendant. The women have appealed both the March and June orders to the 7th Circuit in the case of DaSilva, et al. v. State of Indiana, et al., 20-2238.
Under Circuit Rule 33, a mediation has been scheduled in the 7th Circuit case for 1 p.m. CT on July 30. After that, the appellant’s brief is due Aug. 31, the appellee’s brief is due Sept. 30, and the reply brief is due Oct. 21.
“Mr. Hill is pleased that the Court has again entered an order dismissing him from this action, leaving the remaining action in the federal court proceeding to address issues that did not and do not involve him in any way,” Hill’s lawyer, Geoffrey G. Giorgi of Crown Point, said in a statement to IL after the June decision.
But lawyers for the plaintiffs — Kimberly Jeselskis, B.J. Brinkerhoff and Hannah Joseph of JBJ Legal in Indianapolis — said “it is important to remember that the Indiana Supreme Court has already found that Mr. Hill committed criminal battery against the Plaintiffs.”
The Supreme Court suspended Hill’s law license for 30 days in May for violations of Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) and (d) related to the groping allegations. The suspension ended just before the Indiana Republican Convention, where GOP delegates selected the party’s nominee to run for attorney general in November.
The nomination ultimately went to former Indiana Congressman Todd Rokita, who earned a majority of votes over Hill in the third and final round of voting. Rokita also defeated Decatur County Prosecutor Nate and Indianapolis attorney John Westercamp.
Rokita will face Democrat Jonathan Weinzapfel in the November AG general election.