NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Doesn’t accused AG have right to process?

What are we to make of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill’s continued denial of allegations that he groped several women at a party in an Indianapolis bar in March?

The number of accusers who were interviewed by state legislators and the call for his resignation by the governor and top two legislative leaders are powerful counters to Hill’s denials. But isn’t it his right to have a “fair investigation,” as he asked in a news conference Monday, and to be considered innocent until proved guilty?

We have been pleased with Hill’s leadership and conservative principles since taking office in January last year. It seems baffling that he would firmly deny the claims if they were true.

A confidential internal legislative memo that was leaked to the media last week documented testimony from a state representative and several legislative employees who described their encounters with Hill at a party at AJ’s Bar & Grill early March 15. The document includes details from interviews with six women. Four of them say an intoxicated Hill, who is married, inappropriately touched them.

Some of the women were interviewed by GOP Senate leader David Long of Fort Wayne and Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, among others. Long, Bosma and Gov. Eric Holcomb last week called on Hill to resign.

Hill held a news conference Monday rejecting the calls for his resignation and saying he has been “falsely and publicly accused of abhorrent behavior” and that his name “has been dragged through the gutter.”

After the unauthorized release of the memo, which redacted the name of the state representative and listed the other women as legislative employees A, B, C, D and E, Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and the Indiana Senate Democrats’ communications director Gabrielle McLemore went public to say they were among the victims. Reardon’s allegations of Hill’s conduct match those in the memo. She described Hill’s behavior as “deviant” and said he slid his hands down her back, then under her clothes and grabbed her buttocks. She told him to “back off,” according to the memo, and walked away, but Hill approached her and grabbed her again.

“At no time was my behavior inappropriate nor did I touch anyone in an inappropriate manner,” Hill said in a statement. “I am not resigning. The allegations against me are vicious and false.”

In a statement Friday, Hill said, “I demand an independent investigation by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, where my constitutional rights are respected and protected.”

He made reference to a WTHR-TV interview with Indiana University law professor Jennifer Drobac, a specialist in sexual assault law, who said the investigation “should be redone completely. … A thorough fact-finding, professional investigation was not done. Under the law, those allegations should be substantiated or not, all parties questioned and conclusions should be drawn.”

We think that is the proper procedure rather than demanding his resignation in a rush to judgment.