Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill defiantly rejected calls to resign on Monday, lamenting that he has been unfairly denied "due process" amid allegations that he drunkenly groped a lawmaker and three legislative staffers at a party.
The Republican called the claims "vicious and false" during a news conference as the allegations play out across news headlines and in the court of public opinion. He demanded due process — a legal concept that generally refers to fairness from the government in proceedings — but he has declined to offer his own version of events.
"Due process, in politics and the non-legal world, means 'Give me a chance to make my statement and answer questions and see what the public thinks,'" said attorney Paul Helmke, a former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne and a public affairs professor at Indiana University. "So far that hasn't happened."
Hill lashed out at his accusers during the news conference and said he looked forward to "the day when I can speak freely and answer questions." He did not take questions or respond to shouted questions about whether he was calling the women liars.
"These past several days and weeks, my name and reputation have been dragged through the gutter in ways that I would have never imagined. Apparently in this climate the standard is guilty and 'who cares if you're innocent?'" he said from a podium in his office. "A week ago today, I had a name. And I want my name back."
The claims against Hill were made public after an internal legislative memo was leaked to the media last week. In it, the four women said Hill drunkenly groped them during a party in March in Indianapolis.
Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and Gabrielle McLemore, the Indiana Senate Democrats' communications director, said Friday that they were among the victims. Candelaria Reardon fired back after Hill's Monday news conference, saying he was the one who had lied.
"Curtis Hill, through his actions, has betrayed the public trust and lied about his actions to the very citizens he serves," the Munster lawmaker said, adding that she would continue cooperating with investigators until Hill "is held accountable for his abhorrent behavior."
Rep. Ryan Dvorak of South Bend, a city that neighbors Hill's hometown of Elkhart, also lambasted him.
"The attorney general calls a press conference to cry about not being able to tell his side of the story, then immediately refuses to tell his side of the story," the Democrat tweeted .
Over the past week, Republicans and Democrats have ratcheted up pressure on Hill to resign. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders joined in on Thursday , saying they believed the women.
Hill said Monday that he respects the governor but wished he would have reached out to him "before rushing to judgment." Holcomb spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson said the governor declined comment Monday.
On Friday, Candelaria Reardon published a column saying Hill's behavior was "deviant" when she encountered him at an Indianapolis bar 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.
She said 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."
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.
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. Indiana GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma and Republican leader David Long declined to comment on whether they would seek to remove Hill from office.
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.
If the Republican-dominated Legislature proceeds with an impeachment trial, it could offer Hill what he said he wants: due process.
Associated Press reporter Rick Callahan contributed to this report from Indianapolis.