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Judge denies former lawmaker's request for new rape trial

0825 von ehlinger
Sarah A. Miller/smiller@idahostatesman.com
Idaho Statesman
Former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, who was convicted of rape in April, appeared at the Ada County Courthouse Thursday for a hearing on his motion to retry or acquit his case.

Former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger will not get a new trial, according to an Idaho District Court Judge,after he was convicted earlier this year of raping and sexually assaulting a legislative intern.

Judge Michael Reardon denied von Ehlinger’s motion to acquit him or grant a new trial Thursday, after his attorney Jon Cox said he had new, undiscovered evidence to present through a new witness.

That witness, who said she worked with the then 19-year-old legislative intern, was only allowed to give limited testimony before prosecutors moved to dismiss her.

The witness admitted to telling a law enforcement officer that the victim told her she hadn’t wanted von Ehlinger’s penis in her mouth and that she had turned her head away during the rape.

Von Ehlinger has maintained his innocence since the victim first came forward.

Reardon said grounds for a new trial can’t be based on evidence that would only question the victim’s credibility. He also said it could be “potentially as impeaching” for von Ehlinger’s testimony as it could be for Jane Doe’s.

In addition, county prosecutors said the witness had left a voicemail for the former lawmaker nearly a year before trial that wasn’t returned. Cox said the message was left on von Ehlinger’s former office phone at the state capitol buildingafter he resigned his seat in April 2021.

During the original trial, Doe testified for just a few minutes before saying, “I can’t do this.” She then walked off the witness stand, forcefully exited the courtroom and never returned.

Despite Reardon ordering jurors to strike all of her testimony at the time, Cox said von Ehlinger was denied his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser in court.

On Wednesday, Reardon said he understood those concerns, but that there are many cases in which victims don’t testify and fair trials can be presented. For example, homicide couldn’t be tried under that requirement, he said, nor “numerous driving violations.”

“I am not inclined to second guess the jury’s decision,” Reardon said as he denied von Ehlinger’s motions.

Von Ehlinger could face up to life in prison on the rape conviction during his sentencing Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. at the Ada County Courthouse.

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

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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!