Stafford: Attorney General Hill is right, just not quite right enough

The latest toxic plume from the slow-motion train wreck that is the Curtis Hill scandal wafted up like a lazy, noxious cloud in the dog days of late July. We were shocked — shocked! — to report Hill warring with yet another state agency. Nothing new about that. Ask Connie Lawson. Or Gov. Holcomb. Or the General Assembly.

The most recent skirmish? A fight Hill instigated demanding Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres turn over every shred of evidence her office collected in its lawful duty to find out whether Hill committed enough drunken lechery with intent to grope that he should be held to account.

In case you missed it, Hill subpoenaed Torres’ office in his attorney discipline case for everything anyone had ever told the IG’s investigators about the out-on-the-town AG and what happened at that now-infamous legislative sine die party at AJ’s Lounge. A lawmaker and three other women say Hill, three to four sheets to the wind, groped them. Lots of witnesses told Torres’ investigators that’s what they saw, too. Old news we’ve heard 100 times, right?

But now, Hill has subpoenaed Torres to turn over all her office’s evidence, and not just some well-documented, comprehensive report. Hill wants everything.

As is customary in such disputes, Torres’ office responded by telling Hill’s legal team to take a long walk off a short pier, legally speaking. If I were posting odds, I’d estimate an 85 to 90 percent likelihood that Torres’ motion to quash Hill’s subpoena will be granted, and the AG will have to look elsewhere for whatever exculpatory evidence may exist. After all, as Torres said in opposition to Hill’s subpoena, her office already gave Hill all 56 — 56! — witnesses’ names and contact information. And, naturally, Hill and his lawyers know perfectly well that there is a work product exception that excludes investigative work product from disclosure.

Yet I completely agree with Hill here — more than agree. Torres should break precedent, comply with the subpoena and turn over all the evidence. Any video that may exist from inside AJ’s. Every photo, digital document, scrap of paper — every whispered word. Anything the IG has that mentions Curtis Hill, hand it over.

But in the interest of full, public disclosure, the IG should make it all public, with redactions as necessary, of course, to protect the identities of victims and witnesses. Be the figurative and literal open book. Put it all on the IG’s web page. Imagine the novel transparency, the model established, the clear, fresh, pure air that would come from letting the full truth out for one brief, shining instance.

Hill must know there is proof of his innocence buried in the IG’s body of investigative work that will cast usunder all her report’s findings of his “creepy” behavior. There must be something there beyond Torres’ report, which, truth be told, did violence to Hill’s unflinching narrative of A Man Wronged. After all, as IL reported from Torres’ report:

“Among the 56 witnesses interviewed were 39 who attended the sine die party. Of those 39, 20 said Hill was intoxicated, claiming he was having trouble standing, was glassy-eyed, was slurring his speech and was disheveled. One of the witnesses described the AG as ‘acting like a freshman at a college frat party,’ while another said he behaved in a ‘predatory, intoxicated manner.’”

“… In a footnote to her report, Torres wrote that the Inspector General’s Office has previously ‘received several additional complaints from members of the public regarding Hill’s actions prior to his election as Attorney General.’ However, because he was not an executive branch employee at the time of those allegations, OIG could not investigate.”

Inspector General Torres, serve the public. Produce all your evidence as the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission weighs not just whether Hill is fit to be the state’s top lawyer, but whether he is fit hold a license to practice law at all. The people of Indiana deserve to know the whole truth about their elected leaders.

Surely Hill would agree.•

__________

• Dave Stafford[email protected] — is editor of Indiana Lawyer. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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