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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two women came forward Friday to publicly accuse Attorney General Curtis Hill of groping them during a party earlier this year, increasing pressure on the embattled Republican to resign.
Democratic state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon published her account of the March 15 incident, which occurred at an Indianapolis bar, in The (Northwest Indiana) Times newspaper.
Gabrielle McLemore, the Indiana Senate Democrats' communications director, told The Associated Press that she decided to go public partly out of frustration that Hill issued a defiant statement Friday calling the allegations false.
The two women also said they acted because they wanted to give other women the courage to confront inappropriate conduct.
Candelaria Reardon described Hill's behavior as "deviant" when she encountered him in the early morning hours after the legislative session ended for the year. She says he 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 said he has no intention of stepping down despite calls to do so.
"I am not resigning. The allegations against me are vicious and false," he said in a statement Friday. "At no time did I ever grab or touch anyone inappropriately."
That's at odds with the accounts of both Candelaria Reardon and McLemore.
McLemore said Hill cornered her at the party and asked, "Do you know who I am?" and proceeded to massage her back, while she worried what others who noticed Hill's unwanted advances would think.
Eventually her intern intervened by asking if she wanted to go to the bathroom.
McLemore said she never wanted to come forward, but changed her mind after seeing that earlier on Friday Candelaria Reardon had come forward, and that Hill continued to deny he did anything wrong.
"Women go through this stuff all the time," McLemore told The Associated Press. For Hill "to deny it again and again is so frustrating. If my story can help other women feel like they don't have to hide, that they don't have to feel like they did something wrong — that's my goal."
Several other women shared similar stories with investigators who looked into the matter, according to a confidential memo that was leaked this week.
The AP does not identify alleged victims of sexual misconduct or assault unless they come forward publicly, as the two women did.
Indiana's sexual battery statute says it's a felony to touch "another person's genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast when that person is unaware."
That's what Candelaria Reardon has accused Hill of doing.
"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," she wrote in the piece.
Hill is a staunch social conservative who is married and had been viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party since his election in 2016. The former Elkhart County prosecutor is an Elvis impersonator who has relished punditry appearances on Fox News. In May, he warmed up the crowd during a rally held in his hometown by President Donald Trump, who gave Hill a shoutout for being a "good man" who's "done a great job."
But he has also had a fraught relationship with fellow Indiana Republicans, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, whose policies he has criticized for not being tough enough on drug users.
On Thursday night, Hill found himself without allies as Holcomb and other top GOP leaders called for him to step down.
"The findings of the recent legislative report are disturbing and, at a minimum, show a violation of the state's zero tolerance sexual harassment policy," Holcomb said.
While Republican legislative leaders tried to stay mum about the claims against Hill earlier in the week, they voiced outrage over the leak of the memo calling it an "egregious breach of confidentiality" that they pledged to investigate.
That led some Democrats to charge that they cared more about the allegations against a fellow Republican being aired out than the well-being of the employees and lawmaker involved.
If Hill doesn't resign, majority Republicans could take action to remove him.
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.
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