Testimony in the attorney discipline action against Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill continues Tuesday after emotional remarks Monday from the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.
Legislative staffers Samantha Lozano and Gabrielle McLemore Brock and former legislative staffer Niki DaSilva took the stand Monday afternoon in the case of In the Matter Of: Curtis T. Hill, Jr., 19S-DI-156. The three women recalled, often tearfully, their version of the events of March 15, 2018, when Hill allegedly groped them after a night of drinking.
Lozano testified first, telling hearing officer Myra Selby that she witnessed Hill slide his hand down Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon’s bare back at the sine die party, as Reardon had testified to earlier on Monday. However, saying she felt uncomfortable, Lozano said she looked away before Hill, as Reardon said, slid his thumb under the fabric of her dress and squeezed her buttocks.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Jennifer Lukemeyer noted that because she looked away, Lozano did not actually see the alleged groping.
Lozano, a legislative aide to Reardon, said had two other interactions with Hill later that night.
The next would come when Hill asked Lozano, “Do you know who I am?” Lozano testified that she responded affirmatively, adding that she went to school with his daughter. According to Lozano, she mentioned Hill’s daughter because his conduct was making her uncomfortable, so she wanted him to know that she was the same age as his daughter.
Later, at the bar, Hill and Lozano were together again. Lukemeyer noted on cross that Lozano voluntarily took a spot next to Hill at the bar, though Lozano said that was the only space available to her near her friends.
While at the bar, Lozano said she made a remark about the room being hot. In response, Hill told Lozano, “Yes, you’re really hot.” Then, according to Lozano, Hill slid his arm around her waist and pulled her close to him. Lozano testified that she did not believe Hill was trying to “guide” her toward the bar.
Lozano said she widened her eyes in a “signal” to DaSilva, who was also at the bar. She then maneuvered himself onto a barstool to put distance between herself and Hill, and DaSilva came to stand between the two.
On the stand herself, DaSilva also testified that she saw Lozano widen her eyes in a signal for help. But prior to stepping in, DaSilva said she witnessed Hill engage in other inappropriate behavior.
Specifically, the former Senate Republican aide said Hill approached the group of women she was standing with, asked them what they were doing at the bar, then told them to “show a little skin” to get their drinks faster.
Though she said her mouth dropped open in shock, DaSilva said she believed she had to give “deference” to Hill — that is, she couldn’t confront him as she might another man because he was an elected official. Both Lozano and Brock also testified that they did not react to Hill as they would have to another person because of his position.
DaSilva testified that when she moved behind Hill and Lozano, that she was also groped. DaSilva testified that Hill put his hand on her mid to low back, then began sliding it down. When she tried to move it away, DaSilva said Hill grabbed her wrist, then moved both of their hands onto her buttocks.
Asked about her internal reaction to the incident, DaSilva said she felt “white hot anger and embarrassment.”
Later that morning, DaSilva texted a friend who worked in the Office of the Attorney General, telling her the AG had touched her buttocks and grabbed other women. This was the same friend whom DaSilva would email with a copy of her public statement after the allegations became public that summer.
By the time the email was sent, DaSilva’s friend had left the OAG, so the email bounced and ended up in Hill’s hands. Hill subsequently released DaSilva’s message as evidence of an effort to “coordinate” stories against him.
When the email was released, DaSilva said she felt angry and violated, as she had only intended to ask her friend for “syntax support.” Later, when one of Hill’s personal lawyers publicly floated the idea of a defamation lawsuit, DaSilva said she became scared of legal retaliation. She also said the threat of a defamation lawsuit caused her to cry through a subsequent interview for an MBA program.
DaSilva has since left her position with the Indiana Senate Republicans, a decision she said was partially based on the incident with Hill and subsequent fallout.
Both Lozano and DaSilva were emotional on the stand, openly crying as they discussed the effect the sine die party has had on them personally and professionally. Both women said they had hoped to obtain anonymity, and they were concerned when their identities became publicly known.
Lozano was able to maintain her anonymity until the October 2018 announcement that Hill would not be criminally prosecuted. She had chosen not to go public up until that point, she testified, because she grew up in a “sheltered” environment where being at a party would be frowned upon. She also said she didn’t want to be blamed for Hill’s actions.
Similarly, as she testified to her experiences, Brock said she was afraid partygoers would believe she had invited Hill to give her what she called a “sexual backrub.” The backrub happened while Brock was at the bar, where Hill approached her by asking, “Do you know who I am?”
Brock testified that the backrub lasted for two to three minutes, though the defense said it might have seemed longer than it actually was. She was able to leave the bar with the help of her intern, and she then left AJ’s Lounge in tears.
Though she was less emotional on the stand, Brock told Selby she continues to struggle both internally and externally with the fallout from the sexual misconduct allegations. She’s unable to focus on her work, she testified, and she’s often called away from projects to address matters relating to Hill.
Though the defense on cross-examination pushed the three women on how much they’d had to drink that night, each told Selby they were not “impaired” to the point where they could have misperceived Hill’s actions.
Brock concluded Monday’s testimony, which began with Reardon testifying that after Hill groped her, she had confronted him about his behavior toward her at the party and told at least one other person at the party that the AG was a “creeper.”
The prosecution also called as witnesses legislative staffers who attended the sine die party and House Speaker Brian Bosma and former Senate President Pro Tem David Long.
Check back with theindianalawyer.com for updates.