INDIANAPOLIS — A special prosecutor last year declined to file charges against Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr., in connection with allegations that Hill groped four women at a bar, in part, because the prosecutor doubted he could win a conviction under current Indiana law.
Now, state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, one of the women who claimed Hill touched her back and buttocks without her consent, is proposing to fix what she described as "broken system" for victims of sexual harassment in the Hoosier State.
Candelaria Reardon this week filed three measures in the House that would make it easier to remove elected officials who engage in sexual misconduct, prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to defend an elected official on sex allegations, and to subject all Indiana employers to civil rights enforcement, not just those with six or more workers.
"What we want to emphasize is that people should look upon their workplace as somewhere they can be treated with respect," Candelaria Reardon said.
"A better work environment leads to better productivity. All people — women and men alike — deserve the right to come to work without fear that they will be harassed or subject to behavior that should not be tolerated in a civilized society."
Additionally, Candelaria Reardon is proposing to create the crime of "lewd touching," defined as: "A person who, without the consent of the other person, knowingly or intentionally rubs or fondles another person's covered or uncovered genitals, buttocks, pubic area or female breast."
Under House Bill 1574, lewd touching would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
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But if committed by an elected official, or through the use of force, a deadly weapon, drugs or by a repeat offender, lewd touching would be a Level 6 felony, with a perpetrator facing up to two-and-a-half years behind bars and a $10,000 fine.
Indiana elected officials also automatically lose their office immediately upon conviction for any felony crime.
"It is important that our elected officials set the standard for behavior and provide a clear idea of what will happen to penalize those who choose to consistently engage in this conduct," Candelaria Reardon said.
"Through my own experience and through conversations with law enforcement officers and the public alike, it is clear that there are many loopholes in a system that should protect women and men from having to face sexual harassment in the workplace."
State Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, has filed a similar lewd-touching proposal. He said Senate Bill 81 was directly inspired by Hill's alleged misdeeds.
Hill, a Republican, repeatedly has denied that he inappropriately touched Candelaria Reardon or the three other Republican and Democratic legislative staffers who claim that Hill individually groped them at a March 15, 2018, General Assembly party.