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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana legislative staffer on Thursday became the third woman — and the first Republican — to publicly accuse state Attorney General Curtis Hill of groping her at a March party, saying the Republican office-holder slid his hand down her back and touched her buttocks when she reached to push his hand away.
Niki DaSilva is a legislative assistant for the Indiana Senate Republican Caucus. She writes in her account in The Indianapolis Star that she is the "Employee A" mentioned in an internal legislative memo leaked to media outlets that describes Hill's alleged drunken groping of four women at an Indianapolis bar.
DaSilva wrote that the allegations that Hill groped her, two other legislative staffers and a state lawmaker early on March 15 at a bar party celebrating the end of the legislative session, are serious.
"This is not a witch hunt, nor is it a political issue. This is an issue of respect, safety and basic human rights," she wrote, saying Hill's alleged actions that night reflect "a deliberate pattern of unacceptable behavior."
Hill, who was elected to a four-year term in 2016, has repeatedly denied the allegations and has defiantly rebuffed calls for him to resign.
In a statement, Hill said DaSilva's accusation was "coordinated and changed under the direction of others." He said his latest accuser, in an email, asked a close friend for input on whether there were grammatical errors or phrases that need to be "changed, strengthened or eliminated."
"It's clear that the integrity of this investigation is compromised," he said. "We would hope that any emails sent on state equipment between the accuser and others be preserved and not deleted."
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and Statehouse GOP leaders last week called on Hill to resign and Indiana's Inspector General, Lori Torres, is investigating the claims. A special prosecutor will review her findings to determine whether Hill will face criminal charges.
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.
Two Democrats, state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and Gabrielle McLemore, the Indiana Senate Democrats' communications director, came forward last week and accused Hill of inappropriate touching them at the party.
In her account, DaSilva wrote that she was waiting to be served a drink when Hill asked her and other women why they were standing at the bar.
"We answered that we were waiting to order a drink and Attorney General Hill, without hesitation, remarked, 'Ah, come on ladies!'" she wrote. "'You've got to show a little skin!'"
DaSilva said she was stunned and turned to her three companions to check whether she had correctly heard what Hill — a staunch social conservative who is married — had just said.
DaSilva said she moved to another area of the bar's serving area "to put some distance between myself and the hovering attorney general."
Later, a co-worker signaled for her to come closer and whispered, "Please don't leave me alone with him. He's being really weird" referring to Hill.
DaSilva said she positioned herself between her co-worker and Hill to serve "as a buffer" between them, but after a few moments Hill put his hand on her back.
"I was taken aback by this gesture as we had never held a conversation before that night. I felt his hand start to slide slowly down my back. I didn't want to bring attention to his actions, so I tried to push his hand away inconspicuously using my free hand," she wrote.
"When our hands met, instead of taking this nudge as a cue to remove his hand from my lower back, he grabbed my hand and moved both of our hands over my butt, lingering there before releasing me."
DaSilva writes that she walked away from feeling, "ashamed and frustrated."
Candelaria Reardon praised DaSilva and McLemore for joining her in publicly describing Hill's alleged actions at the party, saying Thursday that she's "very proud of these brave young women that have found their voice to stand up and declare that power is not consent."
DaSilva said that after Candelaria Reardon told her May 15 that she had filed a complaint with Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma about Hill's alleged groping of her, she was interviewed by the Senate Republican Caucus.
She said she eventually learned that "the inappropriate and inexcusable behaviors exhibited by Attorney General Hill were experienced by multiple women of both political parties, from both chambers and in varying positions within the legislature."
"Individually, our stories may cause doubt in some minds. However, when these stories are weaved together they stand as a strong testament to a deliberate pattern of unacceptable behavior," she wrote.
This version of the story corrects the day of the week in the first paragraph.
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