INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana legislative staffer on Thursday became the third woman — and the first Republican — to publicly accuse state Attorney General Curtis Hill of groping her at a March party, saying the Republican office-holder slid his hand down her back and touched her buttocks when she reached to push his hand away.
Niki DaSilva is a legislative assistant for the Indiana Senate Republican Caucus. She writes in her account in The Indianapolis Star that she is the "Employee A" mentioned in an internal legislative memo leaked to media outlets that describes Hill's alleged drunken groping of four women at an Indianapolis bar.
DaSilva wrote that the allegations that Hill groped her, two other legislative staffers and a state lawmaker early on March 15 at a bar party celebrating the end of the legislative session, are serious.
"This is not a witch hunt, nor is it a political issue. This is an issue of respect, safety and basic human rights," she wrote, saying Hill's alleged actions that night reflect "a deliberate pattern of unacceptable behavior."
Hill has repeatedly denied the allegations and has defiantly rebuffed calls for him to resign.
In a press release sent to NBC News by his office, Hill said, "It’s clear that the integrity of this investigation is compromised. The various stories appear to be coordinated and changed under the direction of others. We believe these emails could be material to an investigation. We would hope that any emails sent on state equipment between the accuser and others be preserved and not deleted."
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and Statehouse GOP leaders last week called on Hill to resign and Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres, is investigating the claims. A special prosecutor will review her findings to determine whether Hill will face criminal charges.
All three of Hill's accusers have published their allegations in the Indianapolis Star. Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, was the first to come forward, on July 6 writing, "I am not anonymous. I am a wife, mother, business owner, and a state representative. I am also a victim of sexual battery, perpetrated by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill."
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At a press conference on Monday, Hill publicly denied all allegations made against him.
"These past several days and weeks, my name and reputation have been dragged through the gutter in ways that I would have never imagined. Apparently in this climate the standard is guilty and 'who cares if you're innocent?'" he said from a podium in his office. "A week ago today, I had a name. And I want my name back."
Shortly after Hill's remarks, the Indianapolis Star published the account of a second accuser, Gabrielle McLemore, the communications director for the Indiana Senate Democrats, who wrote, "We should not have to deal with this, and people like Curtis Hill should not be allowed to continue to get away with it. I will no longer be silent."
In DaSilva's account, she said that when she arrived at the bar she joined three of her female colleagues and was speaking to them while waiting to be served drinks when Hill approached them. He seemed "rather gregarious" and asked her and the other women why they were standing at the bar, she wrote.
"We answered that we were waiting to order a drink and Attorney General Hill, without hesitation, remarked, 'Ah, come on ladies!" she wrote. "You haven't figured out how to get a drink yet? You've got to show a little skin!'"
DaSilva said she was stunned and turned to her three companions to check whether she had correctly heard what Hill — a staunch social conservative who is married — had just said. She said they confirmed that he had told them to "show some skin."
DaSilva said she was "slightly irritated" by Hill's remarks and moved to another area of the bar's serving area "to put some distance between myself and the hovering attorney general."
When two of the women she was with left the bar area after getting their drinks, DaSilva said she was standing with the remaining co-worker and was just about to leave to join others in the bar when her co-worker signaled for her to come closer and whispered, "Please don't leave me alone with him. He's being really weird" — referring to the attorney general.
DaSilva said she positioned herself between her co-worker and Hill to serve "as a buffer" between them, but after a few moments Hill put his hand on her back.
"I was taken aback by this gesture as we had never held a conversation before that night. I felt his hand start to slide slowly down my back. I didn't want to bring attention to his actions, so I tried to push his hand away inconspicuously using my free hand," she wrote.
"When our hands met, instead of taking this nudge as a cue to remove his hand from my lower back, he grabbed my hand and moved both of our hands over my butt, lingering there before releasing me."
DaSilva writes that Hill then looked at her "with a grin on his face" and continued talking but that she and her co-worker soon walked away from him, leaving her feeling, "ashamed and frustrated."
Candelaria Reardon praised DaSilva and McLemore for joining her in publicly describing Hill's alleged actions at the party, saying that she's "very proud of these brave young women that have found their voice to stand up and declare that power is not consent."
DaSilva said that after Candelaria Reardon told her May 15 that she had filed a complaint with Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma about Hill's alleged groping of her, she was interviewed by the Senate Republican Caucus.
She said she eventually learned that "the inappropriate and inexcusable behaviors exhibited by Attorney General Hill were experienced by multiple women of both political parties, from both chambers and in varying positions within the legislature."
"Individually, our stories may cause doubt in some minds. However, when these stories are weaved together they stand as a strong testament to a deliberate pattern of unacceptable behavior," she wrote.