Politics

Lawmaker, staffer share stories about Attorney General Hill

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- A state lawmaker at the center of the allegations against Indiana's attorney general is telling her side of the story.

On Friday afternoon, another woman who says Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill inappropriately touched her came forward, too, citing the courage of the state lawmaker who earlier went public with her story, as well as the Hill's refusal to resign.

State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, a Democrat from Munster, represents the 12th District in northwest Indiana as a state representative. 

Reardon released this letter via The Northwest Indiana Times, in which she details being grabbed by Attorney General Curtis Hill:

My name is Mara Candelaria Reardon.

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.

In the early hours of March 15, as is the tradition, lawmakers, staff, and others engaged in the legislative process, gathered to mark the end of the legislative session. As I was crossing the room, I came across Attorney General Curtis Hill, entering the party alone. I was quite surprised to see him in this setting, because in my 12 years in and around the General Assembly, I have not seen any attorney general attend an end of session gathering.

He greeted me and the staffer that was with me. While I do not know him personally, we had met before. As we were exchanging pleasantries, Curtis Hill leaned toward me as if he could not hear me and placed his hand on my back and slid his hand down to my buttocks and grabbed it. I said “back off,” and walked away, as the staffer with me stood shocked.

Later in the evening, I was standing with a group of people, and he approached the group. Hill came up behind me and put his hand on my back again and said, “That skin. That back.” I recoiled away before he could touch my buttocks again.

As a strong, independent woman, I planned to address the issue personally with Hill. To me, he was not the attorney general, or a married man, or a religious man, or a Republican. He was the man who put his hand on my skin and my buttocks, and I felt I needed to address it face to face.

That was my plan; however a few weeks later, I was having lunch with a fellow legislator and a member of the legislative staff. At that time, the staffer, still shocked and disgusted, told us that after I went home, Curtis Hill continued to grope at least four other women, herself included.

I realized that this was bigger than me, and I had an obligation to report it to our House leadership, to protect these women and any others, from Curtis Hill’s deviant conduct. These young women came to Indianapolis to be mentored and taught professional conduct, not to be assaulted.

I reported the deviant conduct to the Democrat leader, and together we went to Speaker Brian Bosma. I appreciate the earnestness with which Republican and Democrat legislative leaders launched an investigation into these independent incidents. They interviewed six women independently, and hired an independent law firm to investigate as well.

As I continue to deal with the harm perpetrated by Indiana’s top law enforcement official, I must also deal with the reality that there is no process by which Curtis Hill, an independently elected official can be held accountable. No censure. No recall. Not even a slap on the hand.

I speak out now, to support the other victims of Attorney General Curtis Hill, who have not yet found their voice.

I call upon our Statehouse leaders to protect not only the young adult public servants, but State employees, and to create a method whereby deviant behavior is held accountable, no matter the perpetrator’s title.

I am grateful for the strong statements from Gov. Holcomb, Speaker Bosma, Senate Pro-tem Long, Senate Minority Leader Lanane, and House Minority Leader Goodin, which have all called for Attorney General Curtis Hill’s resignation.

I encourage all Hoosiers of good will to join them in this demand.

Gabrielle McLemore, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Senate Democrats, on Friday released a statement detailing what she says happened at the bar and expressing her awe at the bravery of Reardon in coming forward.

McLemore's full statement: 

I had just completed a 16-plus-hour work day at the Statehouse, where I was following legislation closely, writing press releases, updating multiple social media accounts and generally running up and down stairs to and from the Senate Chambers, in heels, all day long.

It was the last day of the 2018 session, the caucus I work for had, at that point, successfully defeated a bill we had fought for months and I, along with nearly every one of my colleagues, was ready to celebrate a job well done. 

I showed up at a bar with my office mates, and I was surrounded by people who had just gone through the same few months as I had. We were exhilarated and exhausted, and we had every reason to celebrate. 

When I was approached halfway through the evening by a certain elected official, I had no idea that my celebration would turn into what it ultimately did. 

“Do you know who I am?”

That’s what he said when he pulled a stool up next to me and forced me to move uncomfortably closer to the bar’s ledge on my right with people both in front and behind me. I was cornered by Indiana's attorney general, who I had never previously met, and he began rubbing my back. I couldn’t hear a single word he said after that as the following thoughts buzzed through my head:

What will people think if they see this interaction? Will they think I beckoned him over? Will they make quick judgments that I was flirting with him? Would they assume I enjoyed the attention? 

Let me be clear: These are not what any person should have to think about when another individual breaks their personal boundary and decides it’s okay to touch them without permission. But they’re the only thoughts I had. I was trapped both physically and mentally by the state’s highest law enforcement official.

And here’s the kicker: There were many men that surrounded me that night. Both men I knew well and men I didn’t. And do you know who helped remove me from that awful situation? 

My college-aged female intern. 

She’s one of the few heroes of this story. I mouthed “HELP ME” across the circle of people I was sitting with, and she immediately made an exit plan for me, suggesting I leave to “go to the bathroom” with her. If it weren’t for her, who knows how long I would have felt trapped there. Helpless. Awkward. And shaming myself, of all people. That was pretty much the end of the night for me, and I tried not to think about what happened for a long time after that. That was until the investigation and the leaked memo, which I didn’t see until the newspapers had posted the full report. 

Now, a lot has occurred since the early hours of March 15, but you already know all of that. And in the wake of this story becoming public, many people have been doing a lot of talking, and I have yet to be one of them. 

I want to first say that throughout the investigation — that I did not request but was offered — I did not have a single defined motive. I didn’t need Hill to resign. I didn’t need him to have a public slogging. I was going through the motions deciding day by day what was best for me. I just wanted to put my story on record, anonymously, in case it ever came up to bite me in the ass. 

Yes, you read that right and, again, this is backward thinking. But I promise you: This is how many women feel in these situations. And there is little to no precedent set where victims of harassment don’t lose something beyond the incident that occurred. Privacy, confidence, reputation, workplace status and respect from peers — it all becomes affected because of something that was completely out of our control.  

I’m going to share something here that only a few select close people in my life know: In college I was sexually assaulted to the full extent by a drunk man, and I didn’t do a damn thing about it. I felt that it was useless to say anything and that it would only make the pain I felt more amplified if I were to pursue any kind of recourse for his actions.

While an unwanted, slow, sexual rub on the back is nowhere near as traumatizing as the rape I experienced only a few years ago, sexual abuse is sexual abuse no matter the degree. And the process of healing from these instances takes years, if full healing ever comes at all.

I’ve seen speculations of whether the victims felt empowered to come forward due to the #MeToo movement, and I will answer your curiosity here: Yes. I did. Four years ago when I bawled my eyes out for a week, I did not feel that kind of empowerment and even now it’s a struggle. But we’re making progress, and I need to let every woman who has spoken up before me to know that I am so deeply appreciative of their bravery, and I couldn’t be writing this without each and every one of you. This includes Representative Mara Candelaria Reardon.

I am in awe of her bravery, and I am deeply sorry for the abuse she was subjected to that same evening. And even more, I am so sorry for every single act of unwanted sexual contact or verbal abuse every woman has received. Each of us know that this doesn’t happen once in a lifetime at a random party. This stuff happens to us every day. To the point where we become numb to it and we no longer think that what happened was all that wrong. Fellow women: Every bit of sexual harassment you have received in your lives is wrong. 

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. 

Timeline

March 15: A legislative end-of-session party occurs at a downtown Indianapolis bar, AJ's Lounge, 1118 S. Meridian St.

May 14: The state's top four legislative leaders are made aware of concerns regarding Attorney General Curtis Hill's conduct at the party.

May 15, 16 and 17: Five legislative employees who made the allegations are interviewed by various legislative personnel.

June 18: An Indianapolis lawyer, Blake J. Burgan, sends a report by email to the director of the Indiana Legislative Services Agency, George T. Angelone, to advice the General Assembly regarding an investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct by Hill.

June 29: Hill learns about the investigation into concerns about his conduct at the party during a conference call with legislative leaders.

Monday, July 2: Hill meets with legislators about the allegations. He said he requested a copy of a "confidential" report about the allegation prepared by an Indianapolis lawyer, Blake J. Burgan.

IndyStar.com publishes an exclusive story on four women alleging Attorney General Curtis Hill inappropriately touched them at the March 15 party at an Indianapolis bar. 

The state's top four legislative leaders say they had completed an investigation into concerns expressed by General Assembly employees about Hill's conduct at the party.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, celebrating his anniversary in a remote area of Montana, says he will comment upon his return to Indianapolis late July 3.

Hill issues a statement calling the allegations "troubling" and denying any inappropriate behavior.

Tuesday, July 3: State Democratic Party leaders call for Hill's resignation. 

Hill issues a statement: "The lack of due process in the prejudicial investigation is concerning." He later issues another statement: "Let me be clear, I am not resigning my position as Attorney General."

The Associated Press releases a copy of the "confidential" report

Thursday, July 5: Gov. Holcomb calls on Hill to resign. 

Friday, July 6: Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres says her office will conduct an investigation into the allegations.

State Rep. Mara Candelaria Rearon, a Democrat from Munster, writes a column for The Northwest Indiana Times that details her being grabbed by Hill.

Hill reiterates in a statement from his office that he will not resign. 

Gabrielle McLemore, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Senate Democrats, writes a statement detailing Hill giving her a back rub.


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