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Lawmaker Testifies on Indiana Attorney General Groping Claim

Brandon Smith/IPB News

A state lawmaker testified Monday that she told a lobbyist Indiana's attorney general was a "creeper" soon after he allegedly drunkenly groped her at a bar.

Attorney General Curtis Hill looked on as Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon answered questions before a former state Supreme Court justice about the encounter during a party celebrating the end of the 2018 legislative session. Reardon's testimony opened a professional misconduct hearing that could last up to a week and lead to sanctions against Hill's law license.

Hill disputes the claims from Reardon and three legislative staffers that he inappropriately touched their backs or buttocks at the party.

Reardon, a Democrat from Munster, testified that she encountered Hill soon after she arrived at the party about 1 a.m. and that he leaned in close to as if to hear her even though she wasn't saying anything to him.

Reardon said Hill was holding a drink in his right hand and put his left hand on her shoulder, then slid his hand down her open-back dress to clench is hand on her buttocks. "A squeeze, a firm grasp," she said.

Hill smelled of alcohol and had glassy eyes, Reardon said.

"I just said back off and left," she said, then running into a lobbyist who knew Hill. "Your boy is a (expletive) creeper."

Hill, a 58-year-old Republican, has denied wrongdoing and resisted calls from GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state government leaders for his resignation. Hill's attorneys argue that he didn't do anything improper as a lawyer and shouldn't face law license sanctions because he was cleared by a special prosecutor.

Reardon and one Republican and two Democratic legislative staffers — ages 23 to 26 at the time of the party — have filed a federal lawsuit against Hill alleging sexual harassment and defamation. A special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against Hill, and a state inspector general's report determined Hill didn't break any state ethics rules.

Recent disciplinary case filings by Hill include admissions that he drank three glasses of wine, a martini and a shot of whiskey over several hours the night of the party. The filings say Hill denies allegations of touching Reardon's buttocks and rubbing one staffer's back but will testify he "did not intentionally place his hand ... in the vicinity" of another staffer's buttocks.

Hill's lawyers wrote that he interacted with dozens of people during the party. They said Hill "has an engaging personality and often physically interacts with others by placing a hand on the other person's arm, shoulder or back. He also has some difficulty hearing in one ear, so he is prone to leaning close to people with whom he is conversing, especially in loud environments."

Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission attorney Seth Pruden said in opening statements that the four women didn't misperceive Hill's actions.

"The women know the difference between a touch on the shoulder and a sexual grab," Pruden said.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby is presiding at the hearing. She will later issue a report to the state Supreme Court, which could take actions include dismissing the complaint, a reprimand and temporary suspension or permanently removal of Hill's law license.