Witnesses: Hill was ‘super friendly,’ ‘inebriated’ at sine die party

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Attorney General Curtis Hill was intoxicated and “super friendly” during the 2018 sine die party, legislative staffers and lobbyists said Tuesday, continuing testimony in the disciplinary hearing against the AG.

All but one witness who saw Hill at the March 2018 party testified Tuesday morning that he seemed intoxicated and/or impaired on the night he allegedly groped four women. The prosecution called nine witnesses in total Tuesday morning, eight of whom attended the party, in the case of In the Matter of: Curtis T. Hill, Jr., 19S-DI-156.

First up was Julian Winborn, who was a legislative aide for the House Democrats in March 2018. Winborn recalled seeing Hill’s hand on Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon’s upper back, and later seeing the AG “rubbing” her back. Though he said he thought the rubbing was odd, Winborn said he did not believe Hill was impaired by alcohol.

Adam Jones, who works for the Senate Democrats, likewise said he saw Hill’s arm on Reardon’s arm, and later on her back before his handed ended up on top of her buttocks. But on cross-examination, Jones told the defense he did not actually see Hill’s hand under Reardon’s clothes, as she testified on Monday.

Jones also said Hill was acting “pretty friendly” and was putting his arm around multiple people he greeted. But after touching Reardon, the state representative “had words” with Hill, Jones testified, though he admitted he couldn’t hear what was said. Instead, he based his testimony on what he was observing from across AJ’s Lounge.

Senate Republican staffer Donna Smith testified that she saw Hill rub Reardon’s back in an “intimate, circular motion.” She also said Hill was “dirty dancing” that night with Patty McGuffey, a lobbyist, a fact testified to by other witnesses Tuesday morning.

Smith’s testimony garnered some controversy among the attorneys as she recalled seeing Hill “rub his body” against three to five women who walked by him at the bar. Defense attorney Jennifer Lukemeyer said such testimony was prejudicial and outside the scope of the disciplinary complaint, but hearing officer Myra Selby overruled the objection.

Similarly, lobbyist Laura McCaffrey said she attended the sine die party with other lobbyists, and when Hill approached their group, he put his arms around two of their shoulders and put his hands on one of their backs. According to McCaffrey, the AG then asked Rep. Ryan Hatfield, who was with the lobbyists, how he got so lucky to be with such beautiful women.

McCaffrey’s testimony supported Smith’s recollection of Hill “dirty dancing,” though McCaffrey used the term “grinding.” The lobbyist also recalled being struck by Hill’s attire that night, as his shirt was unbuttoned low enough to expose his chest.

McCaffrey was at the bar at the time of former Senate Republican staffer Niki DaSilva’s alleged interaction with Hill, and she recalled that DaSilva seemed uncomfortable while in AJ’s. Later, as they were riding home together, DaSilva indeed recounted being uncomfortable as Hill touched her buttocks at the bar.

Zack Sand, who worked for the Senate Majority Campaign Committee at the time of the sine die party, said Hill took a shot of Fireball with him at the bar. After the alleged incident with DaSilva, Sand said DaSilva wasn’t “upset” or “angry,” but she was “concerned” because Hill’s conduct made her uncomfortable.

The morning after the party, DaSilva placed a call to Natalie Fields, who was then a deputy attorney general in Hill’s office. That’s according to Emily Crisler, who works in the Department of Local Government Finance.

Crisler had lunch with Fields the day after the sine die party, and Fields relayed DaSilva’s phone call — which recounted her allegations against Hill — to Crisler.

Crisler, in turn, spoke with Joan Blackwell, who was then Hill’s ethics officer and chief of staff. Blackwell initially said Hill was not at the sine die party, but during a follow-up conversation, Crisler reported what DaSilva had said in the call, as reported by Fields.

Crisler’s testimony was strongly objected to by the defense on double hearsay and relevance grounds, but Selby allowed her testimony to proceed. On cross-examination, Crisler said she didn’t know if Blackwell ever reported her comments about the phone call to Hill.

Three other witnesses testified to speaking with Gabrielle McLemore Brock, communications director for the Senate Democrats, about her alleged experience with Hill. Brock claims Hill rubbed her back without her consent, and Allison Lucas, Brock’s intern at the time, testified Tuesday to seeing Hill standing very close to Brock. Lucas also said she saw Hill’s arm move up and down on Brock’s back, though she could not see exactly where his hand was.

Both Brock and Lucas testified that Lucas helped Brock leave the situation, and the two then went to the bathroom, where Lucas said Brock was “bawling.” The two decided to leave, and Brent Stinson, who was then a press secretary for the Senate Democrats, recalled being outside of AJ’s when Brock “busted out of the door.”

According to Stinson’s testimony, Brock was very upset that other partygoers would believe she had invited or was enjoying Hill’s attention. Brock gave similar testimony on Tuesday.

The next day, Brock was crying in the office, said Susan Preble, a fiscal analyst for the Democrats. Brock came to Preble’s office to report what had happened, Preble said Tuesday, and the communications director – who was then a press secretary – was “extremely upset” and “didn’t know what to do.”

Though Brock testified that the “sexual backrub” lasted for multiple minutes, Lucas said it was likely less than one minute. Lucas described Hill as moving his hand on Brock’s back “on the slower end of a normal pace of rubbing.”

Several witnesses also testified Tuesday that it was unusual for Hill to be at the sine die party, with multiple people saying they had never seen a statewide elected official at the event. Though the defense has described Hill’s conduct as “flirty” or like that of a politician working the room, witnesses said Tuesday that his actions leaned more toward aggressive and/or inebriated.

House Speaker Brian Bosma and former Senate President Pro Tempore David Long will be called to testify Tuesday afternoon. Both Bosma and Long, as well as Gov. Eric Holcomb and minority leaders in both chambers, called on Hill to resign after the sexual misconduct allegations became public.

Reardon, Brock, DaSilva and Samantha Lozano, the fourth accuser, each testified on Monday.

Check back with theindianalawyer.com for updates.

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