Former Republican Idaho state lawmaker found guilty of raping intern

‘He used that power to rape and forcibly penetrate her,’ prosecutor says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Friday 29 April 2022 21:36
<p>Former Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger testifies on his own behalf during day three of his rape trial at the Ada County Courthouse, Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Boise, Idaho</p>

Former Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger testifies on his own behalf during day three of his rape trial at the Ada County Courthouse, Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Boise, Idaho

A former Republican Idaho state lawmaker has been found guilty of raping an intern.

Aaron von Ehlinger, 39, was convicted on Friday of raping a 19-year-old legislative intern following a trial during which the intern left the witness stand as she was testifying, saying “I can’t do this”.

The intern told a Statehouse supervisor that the rape occurred at von Ehlinger’s apartment following a dinner the two had at a restaurant in the state capital of Boise in March of last year. He has claimed that it was consensual.

Von Ehlinger was a state representative from Lewiston at the time but he has since resigned.

While he was found guilty of rape, he was found not guilty of sexual penetration with a foreign object.

When the verdict was announced, von Ehlinger listened calmly, much as he did throughout the court proceedings. He spoke quietly with his lawyer, who then took items from his client’s pockets while the former lawmaker was handcuffed.

Former Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger testifies on his own behalf during day three of his rape trial at the Ada County Courthouse, Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Boise, Idaho

Fourth District Judge Michael Reardon told the jury after the verdict that, “this has been an unusual case attended by many unexpected circumstances, but I appreciate your attention ... and hard work”.

Von Ehlinger is set to be sentenced on 28 July.

The intern struggled to describe the rape from the witness stand before suddenly leaving.

“He tried to put his fingers between my legs and I closed my knees,” she said, standing up.

“I can’t do this,” she added and walked out of the room.

The judge afforded the prosecution 10 minutes to locate her and figure out if she could return and continue.

When she didn’t come back, the judge told the jury that they had to “strike” the intern’s testimony “from your minds as if it never happened” because the defence wasn’t able to cross-examine her.

Von Ehlinger spoke directly to the jury, saying that he and the intern were going to “hang out” after the dinner at the upscale restaurant, adding that they started to make out on the couch.

“Things were going well, and I asked [the intern] if she would like to move to the bedroom,” von Ehlinger said. “She said ‘Sure.’ We got up, held hands and walked into the bedroom.”

Deliberations lasted for seven hours until almost 8pm on Thursday.

The intern was harassed by some of von Ehlinger’s supporters when the allegations became known to the public, mostly because of the legislative ethics investigation.

Her name, photo, and personal information were shared publically on several occasions. One of the people who frequently harassed the intern was banned from the floor of the courthouse where the proceedings were held after he attempted to attend the trial.

Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katelyn Farley told jurors during closing arguments that “power in the wrong hands” was used to the “great devastation” of the intern.

Ms Farley added that von Ehlinger used his social, political, and physical power against her.

“He used that power to rape and forcibly penetrate her,” she said, adding that the intern resisted him in several ways.

“Words show lack of consent. Excuses of ‘why this shouldn’t happen,’ show lack of consent. Yanking your head back and getting an injury shows lack of consent,” Ms Farley said.

Von Ehlinger’s defence lawyer Jon Cox told the jury that the prosecutor’s arguments consisted of “red herrings” and that von Ehlinger was credible and willingly testified in his defence.

The jury heard earlier this week from investigators and a nurse who conducted a rape exam. They said that the intern said she was held down and that von Ehlinger forced her to perform oral sex.

They added that she was aware that he often carried a handgun and it was located on a dresser close to the bed as the assault took place.

A nurse testified that the intern had a “goose egg” on the back of her head from striking the wall or a headboard while trying to jerk her head away from von Ehlinger’s grip.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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