As the parties await a hearing officer’s report in the lawyer discipline case against Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, their competing filings urge the hearing officer to take very different views of the underlying sexual misconduct allegations in making her recommendation to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Attorneys for Hill and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission on Monday filed proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The proposals were submitted to former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby, who presided in October over the four-day disciplinary hearing in In the Matter of Curtis T. Hill, Jr., 19S-DI-156.
Hill’s attorneys continue to urge Selby to dismiss the action, but the commission, led in the proceedings by attorney Seth Pruden, is advocating for a two year suspension without automatic reinstatement.
In its proposed hearing officer report, the commission writes that the four women who have accused Hill of groping them and/or making unwanted advances – State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and current and former legislative staffers Gabrielle McLemore Brock, Niki DaSilva and Samantha Lozano – should be found credible. It likewise says witnesses who testified to seeing Hill touching the women should be credited, while Hill’s denials should not be.
But the defense — including former commission head Donald Lundberg and Indianapolis attorneys Jim Voyles and Jennifer Lukemeyer — claim the women have been inconsistent in their accounts of March 15, 2018, the date of the now-infamous sine die party at which the misconduct allegedly occurred.
The defense’s proposed findings and conclusions specifically call into question the testimony of Reardon, a Munster Democrat, and DaSilva, a former aid to the Senate Republican caucus.
“Rep. Reardon was even inconsistent in her hearing testimony,” Hill’s team wrote. “She testified on direct exam that the Respondent ‘put his hand on my back and slid it down my back into my dress and grabbed my buttocks.’ … On cross-examination, she testified not that the Respondent’s hand went into her dress, but that his thumb was in her dress, but the rest of his hand was outside her dress.”
Confronted with this on the stand, Reardon testified that she did not differentiate the thumb and the hand.
As to DaSilva, the defense said her “recollection of her interaction with the Respondent is not consistent. She inconsistently described his contact with her as having ‘touched’ her butt … and as having ‘grabbed’ her butt. … There was no independent corroboration of Ms. DaSilva’s description of her interaction with the Respondent, including her description of his touching her.”
DaSilva has claimed that Hill rubbed his hand down her back, and when she tried to push him away, he grabbed her hand and placed both of her hands on her buttocks.
The proposed reports track the arguments presented at the disciplinary hearing, with the commission claiming Hill committed criminal conduct and the defense asserting that Hill’s contact with the women was intended to be friendly but instead was misperceived.
The defense said Hill has a “hearing deficiency,” which explains why he placed his hand on Reardon’s back in an effort to hear her better. Similarly, Hill was only “guiding” Lozano and DaSilva toward the crowded bar when he touched them, his team argued.
But the commission cast those assertions as a lack of remorse and a lack of acceptance of responsibility. It said the defense strategy — “which overly focused on what the victims were wearing … what the victims were drinking … who the victims were dancing with … whether the victims had consented to pose for a picture on a prior occasion … and whether the victims were overreacting to innocent flirting” — showed a lack of insight.
“Such outmoded tactics seek to shift the blame to victims of sexual misconduct and contribute to victims’ reluctance to report,” the commission wrote.
Similarly, in a separate brief in support of its proposed report, the commission said that to believe the accusers “were mistaken or lying would mean that four women had at the same time, at the same event, in the same or nearly same manner, by the same person, as pure happenstance, were grossly mistaken or lied about their own experience to their friends or colleagues, and then committed perjury during this proceeding. It would also mean the corroborating witnesses were mistaken or lying. In short, it simply is not possible that they are wrong or gave false testimony.”
Also in its brief, the commission argued that Hill could still be professionally disciplined, even though he was not criminally or ethically charged. The defense, however, wrote in its proposed report that Selby should hold that the Supreme Court — which will make the final decision on sanctions after receiving Selby’s recommendation — “should be deferential to the decision of a special prosecutor whose specific duty was to determine whether a crime should be charged and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction.”
The commission has charged Hill with violations of Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) and (d) and Admission and Discipline Rule 22, which is the Oath of Attorneys. The commission says those charges have been proven by clear and convincing evidence, but the defense says the charges should be dismissed because Hill’s conduct was not criminal and was not connected to the practice of law or administration of justice.
A procedural dispute has also arisen between the parties over the commission’s brief. The defense has moved to strike the brief, saying it was not authorized by Selby in a post-hearing conference.