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Aaron von Ehlinger had a long list of previous convictions; the State of Idaho pardoned them all

A side-by-side of Aaron von Ehlinger wearing a blue suit jacket with his hand rubbing his eyes and his mugshot from the Ada County Sheriff's Office.
James Dawson, Boise State Public Radio, Ada County Sheriff's Office
Aaron von Ehlinger served in the Idaho House June 3, 2020 - April 29, 2021.

Former state lawmaker Aaron von Ehlinger was found guilty of raping a legislative intern in April 2022; but before that verdict, the State of Idaho had pardoned him on a list of previous convictions.

Between 1996 and 2013, von Ehlinger was charged with 15 offenses on eight occasions. He pleaded guilty five times. But just 56 days before he was accused, and eventually convicted, of raping a legislative intern, von Ehlinger was pardoned by the State of Idaho for the previous convictions.

Von Ehlinger’s first run-in with the law came in 1996. He was 14 years old when he was charged with driving without a license and driving an unregistered vehicle. A year-and-a-half later, he would be convicted of speeding – all misdemeanors.

In the summer of 2000, when he was 18, von Ehlinger left his Clearwater County home and enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he remained for three years, eventually receiving an honorable discharge as a corporal. He would later say that his time in the military was “thankless,” adding, “sometimes guys have some issues that they need to deal with and that was the case for me.”

He also called the conflict in Afghanistan the “ultimate betrayal.”

After returning home to north central Idaho, von Ehlinger had a string of arrests and/or convictions between 2009 and 2013. He would later tell the state parole board that his time in the Army was a “sad” time and that he was “haunted by aspects of my military service.”

Through those five years, von Ehglinger would be charged with 12 different offenses, including drunk driving, dispensing alcohol to minors, drug possession and carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence. In fact, during three different traffic stops, law enforcement discovered a weapon, a Glock 10 mm semi-automatic handgun, in von Ehlinger’s vehicle before he disclosed that it was in his possession.

According to police reports, von Ehlinger blamed a charge of careless driving on wet tires, a charge of drug possession on a medical marijuana card that didn’t exist, and on two occasions, he insisted his arrests were at the hands of jealous boyfriends of von-Ehlinger’s ex-girlfriend.

In his 2019 request for a pardon for his past convictions, von Ehlinger would write that he hit “rock bottom” in the late 2000s and was “in and out of trouble.” He was quick to add that he had since turned his life over to the Lord and Jesus Christ. He wrote that he often “gave money to the homeless” and among his hobbies, he listed “trap shooting, cars, traveling, praying and living a law-abiding life.”

When the Commission of Pardons and Parole asked him why he was making the unusual request for a pardon, something usually reserved for previous inmates in state prison, von Ehlinger told the commission that he was a “law-abiding citizen and God-fearing man.”

In June 2020, Aaron von Ehlinger was appointed by Governor Brad Little to fill an open seat in the Idaho House, and that November, he would win an uncontested general election to hold the seat.

On January 13, 2021, just days after von Ehlinger began his first and only term in the legislature, the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole unanimously agreed to pardon him for his previous offenses, though the pardon did not expunge his criminal history.
Less than two months after receiving the pardon, von Ehlinger was accused of raping a legislative intern.

He resigned his seat in April 2021 after a House ethics committee hearing over the allegations. He was ultimately convicted of the rape this spring. His sentencing is on hold pending his request for a new trial or acquittal in the case.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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