INDIANAPOLIS — Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. may face professional discipline in connection with his alleged groping of four women at a capital city bar that could result in Hill no longer being eligible to hold his office.
The Indiana Supreme Court's Disciplinary Commission, which regulates the professional behavior of all Hoosier attorneys, filed a complaint Tuesday declaring that Hill's alleged misconduct in the early morning hours of March 15, 2018, warrants punishment by the state's highest court.
According to the complaint, Hill committed one count of sexual battery, a level 6 felony, and up to five counts of misdemeanor battery when he touched, without their consent, the backs and/or buttocks of state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, and three female General Assembly employees at a party following the conclusion of the 2018 legislative session.
In October, a special prosecutor declined to file either felony or misdemeanor charges relating to Hill's alleged behavior, because the prosecutor doubted the evidence gathered by the state's inspector general would result in a criminal conviction, which requires "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."
The proof required in attorney discipline cases is the slightly lower standard of "clear and convincing evidence," which the nine-member commission, including Region attorneys Tony Walker, of Gary, and Trent McCain, of Merrillville, believe has been met.
Hill's personal attorney, Don Lundberg, said the allegations against Hill already have been investigated three times — by the General Assembly, inspector general and special prosecutor — and each investigation reached the same conclusion: no further action was warranted.
"This matter will be addressed through the proper process outlined for disciplinary complaints in the state of Indiana and we are confident it will conclude in a manner consistent with the results of the prior investigations," Lundberg said.
"The attorney general remains focused on serving the people of Indiana."
The commission said in its complaint that Hill's alleged criminal acts adversely reflect on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer, in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys At Law.
In addition, according to the commission, Hill engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and violated his attorney's oath to "abstain from offensive personality" by touching and making offensive comments toward the women.
The complaint also points out that as the state's chief legal officer, Hill "holds a position of extreme public trust," and, correspondingly, "a heightened duty of ethical conduct" that Hill failed to live up to.
"The respondent's (Hill's) ethical violations and offensive conduct reflect poorly on the legal profession and does incalculable harm to the public perception of the attorney general's office and all the state agencies it represents," the commission said.
Hill's actions are further aggravated by his pattern of misconduct toward multiple women; his public suggestions that the women should not be believed; Hill's lack of remorse; the fact that three of the women were in their 20s, had just begun careers in state government and were subject to sexual misconduct by a powerful state official; and that Hill "acted with the selfish motive to arouse his sexual desires," according to the commission.
The commission does not suggest in its complaint what punishment the five justices of the Indiana Supreme Court should impose on Hill.
The court's possible sanctions include a private or public reprimand, the temporary suspension of Hill's law license or permanent disbarment from the practice of law in Indiana, which would mean Hill no longer is eligible to serve as attorney general.
Hill has 30 days to respond to the allegations in the disciplinary commission complaint.
If he disputes the claims, a hearing officer will be appointed to evaluate the evidence and report on the case to the Supreme Court, which makes the final decision on any professional discipline.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly has declined to take any steps toward impeaching the Republican attorney general, even though the GOP House and Senate leaders, along with Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, all have called for Hill to resign.
House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said he's grateful the disciplinary commission is taking the allegations against Hill seriously.
"I certainly believe the women in this case and echo statements made by my fellow legislative leaders calling for Attorney General Hill to resign," GiaQuinta said.
"The chief law enforcement officer of our state should be held to the highest standard of decorum and it's clear the attorney general cannot meet that standard."
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