INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A lawyer for Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said Wednesday that calls for the Republican's resignation over allegations that he drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three legislative staffers are "pure hysteria" based on a flawed initial investigation.
Attorney Kevin Betz said during a news conference that Hill faces "false and malicious" information included in a report prepared for state legislative leaders about the allegations stemming from a March 15 party at an Indianapolis bar. The report was leaked to the media, and three of the women later publicly accused Hill of inappropriately touching them during the party celebrating the end of the legislative session.
Betz said Wednesday that a defamation lawsuit could be filed because the allegations included in the confidential report were more serious than what two of the women said happened in their public statements.
"With alcohol flowing, perceptions are a very difficult thing to come to a firm conclusion about," Betz said.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and Statehouse GOP leaders have called on Hill to resign. Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres is investigating the claims, and a special prosecutor will review her findings to determine whether Hill will face criminal charges.
Hill has denied the allegations and rebuffed the calls for his resignation. He is also challenging the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Hill, a staunch social conservative who is married, had been viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party since his election in 2016. The former Elkhart County prosecutor is also an Elvis impersonator who has relished punditry appearances on Fox News. If Hill doesn't resign, majority Republicans could take action to remove him. Republican leaders have declined to say whether they might take those steps.
Democratic state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and Gabrielle McLemore, the Indiana Senate Democrats' communications director, say they were among the victims.
Candelaria Reardon published her account of the March 15 incident in The (Northwest Indiana) Times newspaper. She described Hill's behavior as "deviant" when she encountered him in the early morning hours after the legislative session ended for the year. She said he leaned toward her, put his hand on her back, slid it down and grabbed her buttocks. The lawmaker said she told Hill to "back off," but he approached her again later in the night, put his hand on her back and said: "That skin. That back."
McLemore later came forward , saying she could no longer stay silent. A Republican staffer also came forward, saying Hill's actions that night reflected "a deliberate pattern of unacceptable behavior."
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