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Jury finds former lawmaker guilty of raping a legislative intern

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.
Brian Myrick
Idaho Press
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.

A jury Friday found former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger guilty of raping a 19-year-old intern in March 2021.

The jury acquitted von Ehlinger on a second charge of forcible penetration with a foreign object.

He could face up to life in prison during his sentencing hearing July 28.

Von Ehlinger was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs shortly after the court clerk read the verdict and appeared to show little to no emotion. He will be held in custody without bail until his sentencing date.

While the trial has mostly run smoothly without much drama, it’s been punctuated by intense moments of emotion.

Jane Doe briefly testified Wednesday. From almost the moment she took the witness stand, her eyes and head drifted around the courtroom. She kept her answers short – just a few words at most – and relayed them to the court in a quiet voice.

Doe, at times, stared towards von Ehlinger, despite Deputy Ada County Prosecutor Katelyn Farley’s instructions to focus on her instead.

As she began to recount the rape, she suddenly said, “I can’t do this,” abruptly leaving the witness stand. Doe then waved to the jury, said, “You’re welcome,” and forcefully pushed her way through the exit door.

Judge Michael Reardon instructed the jury to pretend as though she had never taken the stand since von Ehlinger’s attorney didn’t have an opportunity to cross-exam her, which is a right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.

“As it stands now, you must strike it from your minds,” Reardon said.

While preparing the case, Farley said she thought that scenario was a possibility if Doe had to testify.

“It was a human reaction, I think, when she ran from the room. I don’t think anybody could’ve not had a human reaction,” she said.

Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts told reporters after the verdict that “victims can be believed and that it is important to reduce barriers for victims in coming forward.”

Bennetts didn’t reveal whether her office had made Doe aware of the verdict, nor what sentence it will suggest during von Ehlinger’s sentencing hearing.

In previous testimony and written statements to a House ethics committee, Doe claims von Ehlinger laid on top of her, pinned her arms down with his legs and forced her to perform oral sex.

The two had returned to his apartment that night after eating dinner at Barbacoa, a restaurant in Boise.

When he took the stand in his own defense Thursday, von Ehlinger denied those allegations.

“She did it completely willingly,” he said of Doe performing oral sex on him.

Von Ehlinger resigned his House seat hours after that ethics committee unanimously recommended what would’ve amounted to an expulsion for the rest of his two-year term.

After halting a criminal investigation just days after Doe first reported the rape, Boise Police restarted it last spring. Authorities eventually issued an arrest warrant for von Ehlinger in September.

A reporter for KTVB asked Jon Cox, his defense attorney, whether he had any comment on the verdict. “Not now,”he told her.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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