Indiana attorney general seeking new term amid groping case
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s attorney general, who is awaiting the outcome from professional misconduct allegations of drunkenly groping four women that threaten his law license, announced Thursday that he’s running for a second term.
Republican Curtis Hill made the announcement in a video in which he doesn’t address the women’s claims that led Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state GOP leaders to call for Hill’s resignation after they became public last year.
Hill’s video mentions legal actions against drug companies over the national opioid crisis and defending state laws imposing additional abortion restrictions. It shows images of Hill with President Donald Trump interspersed with favorite national conservative attack targets such as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“I stood with President Trump,” Hill says in the video. “I’ll never back down from partisan attacks, the media, and even Republicans embarrassed to defend our values.”
Hill has denied doing anything wrong and a special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges over the allegations from a state lawmaker and three legislative staffers during the March 2018 party at an Indianapolis bar marking the end of that year’s legislative session.
The Indiana Supreme Court is awaiting a hearing officer’s report before deciding any law license sanctions. The court’s options range from dismissing the complaint, a reprimand and temporary suspension or permanent removal of Hill’s law license, which he needs under state law to serve as state government’s top lawyer.
The Republican attorney general nominee will be picked at the state party convention next summer ahead of the November 2020 election.
Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and House Speaker Brian Bosma are among top state Republicans who’ve called for Hill’s resignation. Holcomb hasn’t yet endorsed anyone for the nomination.
“The governor and lieutenant governor have been clear and consistent from the beginning: Curtis Hill should not be Attorney General of the State of Indiana,” state Republican Party spokesman Jake Oakman said in a statement. “This announcement doesn’t change anything.”
Hill will be counting on the support of social conservatives among state convention delegates in order to win the GOP nomination. He’s fueled that support with news conferences about the discovery of more than 2,400 sets of fetal remains at Chicago-area properties linked to a deceased Indiana abortion doctor and appearances on Fox News to discuss topics such as San Francisco’s troubles with homelessness.
Hill was elected last November as vice chairman of the national Republican Attorneys General Association, which provided about half of the $1.5 million he spent in easily winning election over a little-known Democrat in 2016.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody called Hill “a disgrace.”
“His conduct is below the standard of an elected official, let alone the state’s top law enforcement officer,” Zody said. “In his announcement, Hill lights the fuse on what could be a powder keg of a Republican convention by openly taunting Governor Holcomb and other Indiana Republicans.”
Hill testified during an attorney disciplinary hearing last month that he briefly touched Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon’s back while leaning in to hear what she was saying during the party and was startled to realize she was wearing a backless dress. Hill said “absolutely not” when asked whether he grabbed Reardon’s buttocks, an allegation she made from the witness stand.
Reardon testified that Hill, smelling of alcohol and with glassy eyes, was holding a drink in his right hand and put his left hand on her shoulder, then slid his hand down her dress to clench her buttocks. “A squeeze, a firm grasp,” she said.
Hill, 58, also refuted testimony from the three female staffers — ages 23 to 26 at the time — that he inappropriately touched their backs or buttocks and made unwelcomed sexual comments to them.