Four women who accused Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill of groping them at a party last year filed a federal lawsuit against him on Tuesday, alleging sexual harassment, retaliation, gender discrimination and defamation, among other claims.
The four plaintiffs, who all work for the state of Indiana, first went public with their allegations last summer. State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and statehouse employees Gabrielle McLemore, Samantha Lozano and Niki DaSilva said Hill touched their backs or buttocks inappropriately at an annual gathering last March marking the end of the legislative session.
Lozano said she witnessed Hill approach Reardon, “place his hand on her back and slide his hand down Ms. Reardon’s buttocks and grab Ms. Reardon underneath her dress,” according to the lawsuit.
DaSilva said Hill touched her lower back and her buttocks; and Lozano and McLemore said the attorney general inappropriately touched their backs.
“I was just worried, ‘What are other people thinking around me?’” McLemore told the Daily Beast of the unwanted encounter. “‘Do they think that I want him to be rubbing my back?’ ‘Does it look like I invited him over?’”
The women also claim they suffered retaliation by the Office of the Attorney General and other staffers after they came forward with their allegations.
“They’ve been mocked and ridiculed by their colleagues,” the women’s attorney Hannah Kaufman Joseph said at a press conference on Tuesday, according to the Indianapolis Star. “They’ve been the subject of very negative reactions by both legislative members, lawmakers themselves and the staff.”
The lawsuit follows a state ethics probe and a criminal investigation launched last year into the women’s allegations against Hill. Neither led to formal charges against the attorney general.
The criminal probe concluded that while the women’s accounts were credible, the evidence was not sufficient to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt that Hill committed” battery.
Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres said in her report that while Hill’s behavior was “creepy” and “inappropriate,” he had not violated state ethics rules.
“Multiple eyewitnesses provided statements that Hill’s conduct was inappropriate, ‘creepy,’ unwelcome, and made many of the women at the party uncomfortable,” Torres wrote.
“All but one of the women who alleged Hill inappropriately touched them were in their 20’s and new in their careers. This demonstrates the disparate power, influence, authority, and age that exists between Hill and the women who made allegations against him,” she added.
Responding to the lawsuit on Tuesday, Hill’s office told NBC News in a statement the plaintiffs’ misconduct allegations had already been investigated and “concluded without any recommendations for further action.”
Hill had previously denied the allegations, saying last July that “false accusations have irretrievably damaged my reputation.”
“I was not afforded fairness in the investigation,” he said.
DaSilva, one of the plaintiffs, said the women had decided to push ahead with the lawsuit in the hope that Hill would be “held accountable for what he did.”
“Even elected officials should be held responsible for their actions,” she told the Daily Beast.