Indiana State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon hasn’t spoken to her state’s attorney general, Curtis Hill, since the night he allegedly grabbed her ass.
“I want him to know how profoundly he’s affected all of our lives,” Reardon, a Democrat, told The Daily Beast through tears on Monday. “This isn’t a game.”
And so she is suing.
Reardon and three other named statehouse employees filed a new federal lawsuit against Hill on Tuesday morning. The 11-count complaint against Hill and the state of Indiana alleges sexual harassment, retaliation, gender discrimination, battery, defamation, and invasion of privacy, according to a draft viewed Monday evening by The Daily Beast.
The Indianapolis Star first reported the sexual-misconduct accusations against Hill, a 58-year-old first-term Republican and father of five, in July.
His four accusers vary by age range, party, and race. After the Star’s report, the women identified themselves as Reardon; Samantha Lozano, 24, a legislative assistant for Indiana House Democrats; Niki DaSilva, 25, a legislative assistant for Indiana Senate Republicans; and Gabrielle McLemore, 23, a communications director for the state senate’s Democratic caucus.
During a “sine die” party at an Indianapolis bar in March 2018 to celebrate the end of the legislative session, the women claimed they were each groped by Hill in separate incidents.
Reardon told The Daily Beast on Monday that Hill “slid his hand onto my exposed back and down into my dress and grabbed my ass.” Several witnesses told investigators that they witnessed the interaction. Reardon allegedly told Hill to “back off” and was then seen mouthing “what the fuck.”
Then, 30 minutes later, Hill allegedly said “that back, that skin” while approaching her a second time.
“Everybody says ‘you should have slapped him,’” Reardon told The Daily Beast. “My reaction was flight, not fight. It’s a total and complete violation, and you don’t know how traumatic it is until it happens to you.”
While she was sitting at the bar, DaSilva said Hill put his hand on her back, and started moving it downward. When DaSilva says she tried to swipe his hand away, Hill allegedly grabbed her hand and used it to grope her.
“If I was in any other situation, I would have berated him,” DaSilva told The Daily Beast. “But this was the attorney general. I’m a staffer; that’s not my place.”
Lozano and DaSilva both say they heard Hill tell others standing at the bar that “you’ve got to show a little skin.”
In a separate incident, while Lozano was at the bar ordering drinks, she says she commented “it’s really hot in here” and that Hill allegedly responded: “Yes, you’re really hot.”
Both Lozano and McLemore have claimed that Hill inappropriately touched their backs—and both told The Daily Beast that they were concerned the interaction might have been interpreted as consensual.
“I was just worried, ‘What are other people thinking around me?’” McLemore said. “‘Do they think that I want him to be rubbing my back?’ ‘Does it look like I invited him over?’”
Many still hold powerful elected offices.
After the four women brought their allegations to leadership at the statehouse, Hannah Kaufman Joseph, an attorney for the group, told The Daily Beast, Hill “engaged in a campaign of retaliation against our clients, using his office as the attorney general.”
“We are living in a time when accusations alone have the power of conviction,” Hill said at a press conference in July, claiming that his reputation had been “dragged through the gutter” by a #MeToo-era witch hunt.
“The standard is guilty, and who cares if you’re innocent?” he asked a microphone-crammed dais, calling the allegations “materially inaccurate.”
That summer, the organization Curtis Hill for Indiana bought and ran Facebook ads to spread the message of his innocence, with quotes like “We are living in a time when accusations alone have the power of conviction,” according to the lawsuit and to documents provided to The Daily Beast by the women’s legal team.
Another Facebook ad run by the pro-Hill organization called the allegations against the attorney general “vicious and false,” the lawsuit claims.
Local attorney Jim Bopp even reportedly created a nonprofit 501(c)(3) called Fairness for Curtis Hill to collect tax deductible funds for Hill’s defense. But still, bipartisan lawmakers throughout the state, including Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, called for Hill’s resignation.
According to Tuesday’s lawsuit, Reardon received anonymous letters of support over her decision to come forward, including one in July from an Indianan who claimed that “there are many apprehensive victims of his unwanted pursuits supporting you in silence from his hometown.”
Then, in October, authorities concluded a state ethics probe and criminal investigation into the matter, interviewing 56 people and ultimately finding that the groping allegations against Hill were “credible,” but that “no crime could be proven.”
Special Prosecutor Daniel Sigler said in his report he did not believe there was sufficient evidence to pursue a battery charge against Hill. Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres said the behavior, which her scathing 25-page report described as “creepy” and “inappropriate,” did not constitute a violation of state ethics rules.
The inspector general’s report noted that Hill, who was first elected in 2016, “made many of the women at the party uncomfortable”.
“Men and women from both parties, the political left and political right, provided accounts of what transpired that night,” Torres wrote, describing an intoxicated a “glassy-eyed” Hill as “acting like a freshman at a college frat party.”
“The women affected indicated Hill’s actions caused emotional distress, family distress and anger,” Torres wrote. “At least one woman left the sine die party in tears, others were upset enough to actively avoid any contact with Hill the rest of the night, and still others sought the protection of men and other women who were there.”
Despite Torres’ report, Hill’s attorneys said in a statement in October that the special prosecutor’s decision not to pursue battery charges against Hill “exonerates and absolves” their client “of any factual and legal criminal behavior.”
“Mr. Hill will continue to serve the people of Indiana in the capacity for which he was elected as the Indiana Attorney General,” the attorneys, James Voyles and Jennifer Lukemeyer, wrote.
Voyles and Lukemeyer did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast on Monday.
Despite the results of both investigations, Reardon and her co-plaintiffs in October filed a tort claim notice to the state and a federal complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, signaling that their fight wasn’t over.
“I don’t know what’s worse: To not be believed, or to be believed and have had no action taken,” Reardon said on Monday. “It’s not right that it’s our responsibility.”
In Tuesday’s lawsuit, Reardon, Lozano, DaSilva, and McLemore ask for a jury trial to determine unspecified damages and an injunction requiring the state of Indiana to adopt appropriate policies related to sexual harassment.
“You’ve got these young women who came to the state capitol to learn about state government,” she added, referring to the three other young plaintiffs in her suit. “We’re supposed to be mentoring them and teaching them about the way the world works.”
“It’s extremely disappointing that it’s 2019 and we’re still talking about this—or finally talking about this,” Reardon continued. “We have a responsibility to teach the young people who come to the capitol how to behave professionally, and that’s not the correct way to engage.”
Even after the past year, the lawsuit notes, there is no uniform policy related to sexual harassment that applies to employees who work in and around the statehouse, including lobbyists and statewide elected officials.
And, for the policies that do exist, according to attorney Kimberly Jeselskis, who also represents the four plaintiffs: “There’s a lot of eyerolling still going on about the importance of sexual harassment training and prevention.”
Lozano, the legislative assistant for Indiana House Democrats, said she worried after the October reports that “people don’t care what happened.”
“This behavior shouldn’t be tolerated,” she added. “I don’t want someone else to have to go through what I went through.”
DaSilva, the legislative assistant for Indiana Senate Republicans, agreed.
“He has to be held accountable for what he did,” DaSilva said. “Even elected officials should be held responsible for their actions.”