4 Indiana state officials, employees sue AG Curtis Hill, claiming sexual harassment

The four women — three Democrats and one Republican — allege the state attorney general groped them at an annual party marking the end of the legislative session.

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By David K. Li

Four female Indiana state officials and employees filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday alleging that they were sexually harassed by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill.

The plaintiffs — State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and statehouse staffers Gabrielle McLemore, Samantha Lozano and Niki DaSilva — registered complaints with the state and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in advance of the federal lawsuit filed in Indianapolis on Tuesday.

Attorney Hannah Kaufman Joseph announces the filing of a civil lawsuit against Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill during a press conference in Indianapolis on Oct. 23, 2018. Joseph is joined by by the accusers, from left, Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, Samantha Lozano, Niki DaSilva and Gabrielle McLemore.Michael Conroy / AP file

The women allege that Hill grabbed their backs or buttocks on March 15 at AJ's Lounge in Indianapolis, during an annual gathering of state lawmakers and staffers to mark the end of the legislative session.

The four also claim that since their allegations became known, they have faced bullying and retaliation by other legislators and staffers.

"We don’t want to be here. We didn’t want this to happen. We didn’t want this circus, but here we are," Reardon told reporters in Indianapolis on Tuesday. "When you’re talking about threatening behavior subsequent to someone putting their hand down my dress, yes, there has been certainly times that I feel unsafe."

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Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill speaks at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on July 9, 2018.Michael Conroy / AP file

Previously, a special prosecutor said he believed the women's claims but that there's not enough evidence to prosecute Hill. Indiana's Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has called for the attorney general, who is also a Republican, to resign.

McLemore, communications director for Indiana Senate Democrats, choked back tears Tuesday, saying she has struggled at work when the allegations went public.

“It’s a huge distraction ... sorry," she said, her voice cracking with emotion. “It really makes it tough to do your job."

Hill's office issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon, saying that these allegations have already been thoroughly investigated and "concluded without any recommendations for further action."

Hill has previously denied any wrongdoing and said he has been unfairly tried in the court of public opinion.

"I stand before you a condemned man," Hill said at a news conference. "Condemned without trial. Condemned without notice. Condemned without the benefit of any basic rights that ensure fairness."

On March 15, 2018, the lawsuit claims, Lozano said she witnessed "Hill lean toward Ms. Reardon, place his hand on her back and slide his hand down Ms. Reardon's buttocks and grab Ms. Reardon underneath her dress."

DaSilva, a legislative assistant for Indiana Senate Republicans, claimed that Hill put his hands on her back.

"She tried to push his hand away," the lawsuit alleges. "When their hands met, instead of taking the nudge as a cue to remove his hand from her lower back, Hill grabbed Ms. DaSilva's hand at her wrist and moved both of their hands over her buttocks, lingering there before eventually releasing her hand."

Lozano, a legislative assistant for Reardon and two other House Democrats, claims Hill grabbed her around the waist and pulled her into him. The Democratic staffer said she confronted Hill about his behavior, reminding him that she had attended college with his daughter.

McLemore said Hill cornered her at the bar, said "Do you know who I am?" and then "began rubbing her back without her consent," according to the civil action.

The lawsuit is demanding an apology from Hill and unspecified monetary damages.