Indiana attorney general won’t be charged in alleged groping

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Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill will not be criminally charged in the alleged drunken groping of a lawmaker and three legislative staffers at a party to mark the end of the legislative session earlier this year, a special prosecutor announced Tuesday morning.

In his report filed with Marion County Superior Court 4, Special Prosecutor Dan Sigler said there was “insufficient evidence of Hill’s intent to touch the victims in a rude, insolent or angry manner to constitute a battery, and a lack of evidence of force with respect to the statutory requirements of sexual battery.”

A confidential legislative memo leaked to the media alleged Hill groped the four women at an Indianapolis bar during a March 15 party to mark the end of the legislative session. Three of the women later went public in July, including Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, who described Hill's behavior as "deviant" when she encountered him in the early morning hours.

Reardon said Hill leaned toward her, put his hand on her back, slid it down and grabbed her buttocks. The Munster lawmaker says she told Hill to "back off," but he approached again later in the night, put his hand on her back and said: "That skin. That back."

Hill, a Republican who was elected to a four-year term in 2016, has denied the allegations and rejected calls to resign from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and legislative leaders.

Sigler, a Fort Wayne-based attorney who has mediated more than 3,500 federal and state cases over the last 20 years, was appointed by Marion County Superior Court Judge Lisa F. Borges in July at the request of Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. Sigler was asked to review the state inspector general's findings and determine whether Hill should face criminal charges.

Indiana's constitution allows for a public official to be removed from office, "for crime, incapacity or negligence" either by "impeachment by the House of Representatives, to be tried by the Senate," or by a "joint resolution of the General Assembly" with two thirds voting in favor.

But there's debate whether that applies to Hill, because the attorney general — unlike the state auditor, treasurer and secretary — is not specifically listed as a "state officer" in the constitution.

Hill could still be impeached "for any misdemeanor in office" under a different Indiana law. But that would likely require criminal charges or a conviction — a higher threshold than the "incapacity or negligence" standard in the constitution.

Legal observers have suggested that Hill could be removed from office if he is found to have violated the state court's code of professional conduct.

Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres provided a statement Tuesday regarding Sigler’s decision:

“While the findings of our investigation did reveal unacceptable behavior by a state officeholder, and which significantly impacted those affected, we respect the grounds on which Special Prosecutor Sigler made his decision,” Torres said.

Torres also released a 25-page summary of the investigation her office launched in July at the request of legislative leaders from both political parties. She said the report was based on interviews with 56 different witnesses.

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