Four women sue Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill for sexual harassment




  • In Business
  • 2019-06-18 23:34:12Z
  • By USA TODAY
 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Four women who allege Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill inappropriately touched them at a party last year have filed a federal lawsuit against both Hill and the state of Indiana, alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation.

Their lawsuit lays out new claimsof how other Indiana lawmakers from both sides of the aisle acted in the presence of Hill's accusers, after the allegations became public. It calls the legislators'reactions "negative, uncomfortable or inappropriate."

"They've been mocked and ridiculed by their colleagues," said Hannah Kaufman Joseph, an attorney for the women. "They've been the subject of very negative reactions by both legislative members, lawmakers themselves and the staff."

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Neither a state ethics probe nor a criminal investigation led to formal charges against Hill over the allegations and Hill has denied any wrongdoing, but he could have to pay if the four women's civil lawsuit is successful.

The four women who say Hill inappropriately touched them are state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, ; Gabrielle McLemore, communications director for Indiana Senate Democrats; Samantha Lozano, a legislative assistant for Indiana House Democrats; and Niki DaSilva, a legislative assistant for Indiana Senate Republicans.

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Hill's office released a statement Tuesday saying attorneys from Hill's office will "defend vigorously" both Hill and the state of Indiana.

"The lawsuit is related to allegations that have now been reviewed four times. The investigations all concluded without any recommendations for further action," a release from the office said. "This latest legal action will be addressed in the court and through the proper procedures as established by law."

Hill's accusers are hoping to bring about systematic changes by convincing the court to require Indiana to update how it handles sexual harassment claims. While the House and Senate both passed new policies this year addressing how to handle such allegations against their own lawmakers, there is no broad Statehouse policy that covers everyone who works in the building, including lobbyists and staffers.

The women are also asking the court to require Hill to apologize for his alleged actions, declare that the four women's constitutional rights have been violated and seek monetary damages from Hill and the state.

If the plaintiffs are successful in their lawsuit, the state of Indiana could be on the hook for compensatory damages.

The four women are also suing Hill for violation of due process, battery, sexual battery, defamation and invasion of privacy.

Hill's accusers went public with sexual misconduct allegations against Hill after details from a confidential legislative report about Hill's alleged actions at AJ's Lounge came out on March 14, 2018, following the close of the legislative session.

In response, Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, and Republican and Democratic leaders called for the Republican attorney general to step down.

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Separate from the lawsuit, Hill also still faces the possibility of punishment from the Indiana Supreme Court, which could ultimately decide to revoke his law license, stripping him of the ability to serve as attorney general.

The court's disciplinary commission accused Hill of engaging in acts of battery or sexual battery against the four women, which the commission says would break the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. Those allegations are administrative, not criminal. A hearing surrounding the allegations likely won't happen until October.

New details released in lawsuit

All four women say they were retaliated against, or they feared retaliation after they went public with their allegations.

According to the lawsuit, when Lozana approached Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma about the allegations, Bosma told her that Hill was asked not to attend functions, but "it's a free country and the (House of Representatives) can't stop him."

Bosma was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Likewise, DaSilva was "so fearful that Hill would retaliate against her" that she locked herself in her office while at work for over a month and Rep. Candelaraia Reardon said Hill's bodyguard stares at her in a "menacing way."

The lawsuit pointed to Hill's use of the office and campaign money to "defame" the women, calling their allegations "vicious and false."

Hill's accusers also described negative or uncomfortable interactions with other lawmakers.

On one occasion after DaSilva went public, the lawsuit alleges, Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, put her hand on DaSilva's shoulder and asked if she needed permission to touch DaSilva.

"Tallian then told Ms. DaSilva that if she were gay it would not be sexual harassment," the court documents stated.

Tallian did not immediately return a phone call.

The plaintiffs also said in the lawsuit that several legislative assistants heard Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, tell Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, that the women who accused Hill "got what they deserved because of how they were dressed" or similar words. Leising said Tuesday that she wouldn't have said that.

In November, McLemore said in the suit, she overheard Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, tell the rest of the members of the Senate Democratic caucus that the Hill allegations had turned into an "expose" into the men present for not doing anything about Hill.

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Taylor said on Tuesday he didn't remember making that statement.

The next month, Rep. Candelaria Reardon was removed from the Black Caucus, which attorneys believe was an action taken in retaliation for her allegation against Hill. Rep. Robin Shackleford, chairwoman of the black caucus, declined comment Tuesday.

This spring, Candelaria Reardon said in the suit, she also overheard Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen, at a work-related reception say, "What are we supposed to do when these women wear a black bra under a white blouse, not look?" Bosma, who according to the suit was also at the event, told Doriot to "never say that again."

Doriot said he couldn't comment at this time.

"Since reporting Hill's unwelcome and unlawful conduct, all the Plaintiffs have limited their attendance to work-related social events due to the negative, uncomfortable or inappropriate reactions of lawmakers and staff," the lawsuit claims. "By not attending such events, the Plaintiffs have been unable to make connections, develop relationships, and network within the political community, all of which are necessary to advance their careers."

Follow Kaitlin Lange on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Four women sue Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill for sexual harassment

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