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Wednesday, July 11, 2018 1:00 am

Special prosecutor sought for Hill probe

Would look into claim of AG's misconduct at party

BRIAN FRANCISCO and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry filed a notice Tuesday requesting that a special prosecutor be appointed to assist in the investigation of Attorney General Curtis Hill, who is accused of sexual misconduct.

That prosecutor will ultimately decide whether to file criminal charges against Hill.

Curry said a special prosecutor is needed because he has a conflict of interest.

“Quite simply, I am a client of the attorney general's office,” he said.

Hill's office, by law, represents elected prosecutors sued in civil court. Curry is represented by the office in two high-profile matters – a civil forfeiture suit and litigation filed by Planned Parenthood regarding the state's newest abortion law.

A Marion County judge will soon appoint a special prosecutor in Hill's case, either from a list of senior prosecuting attorneys or a prosecutor from another county.

Curry said the Indiana inspector general is acting as the police agency and has the legal authority and criminal investigators to conduct the probe. He said the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's sex crimes unit can help if Inspector General Lori Torres finds it necessary.

State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, and three General Assembly aides have accused Hill, a Republican, of groping them at an Indianapolis bar in March. Their assertions were made public last week after news media obtained an internal eight-page legislative memo on the matter. That prompted Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and legislative leaders of both parties to urge Hill to resign.

Curry, a Democrat, would not comment specifically on the allegations. He said battery generally is a misdemeanor but could rise to a felony if sexual intent is involved in the touching.

Hill has repeatedly said he hasn't been granted due process. But Curry said due process applies only to a criminal proceeding.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Todd Young called for Curry to investigate the claims against Hill.

Curry “needs to open an investigation. Charges need to be filed if in fact they confirm what all the reporting of that legislative investigation has indicated,” Young, R-Ind., said in a conference call with reporters.

“These are horrible acts, and they undermine public trust,” Young said. “We need to be held to a higher standard as elected officials.”

Curry later said prosecutors generally do not pursue criminal investigations. They instead aid police investigations, such as by seeking court warrants, and deciding whether to bring charges.

Hill has requested that Curry investigate the claims against him. At a Monday news conference where he took no questions, Hill said the sexual misconduct accusations are “vicious and false” and he does not intend to resign.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun joined the chorus of demands for Hill's resignation Tuesday, saying in a statement that the allegations against the attorney general are “troubling and serious,” according to The Associated Press.

But Braun also told Indianapolis radio station WIBC that a government official's resignation is “a personal decision” and that Hill's decision to fight the allegations is “within his right to do so.”

The senator Braun is trying to unseat in the November election, Democrat Joe Donnelly, said Thursday in a statement that Hill should resign immediately because of his “outrageous conduct.”

nkelly@jg.net

bfrancisco@jg.net