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State Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger Under Ethics Investigation For Alleged Rape

Former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger talks into a microphone on the steps of the Idaho Capitol. Men stand behind him, some holding Trump's Make America Great Again flags, some holding American flags.
Gustavo Sagrero
Boise State Public Radio
Rep. Aaron Von Ehlinger (R-Lewiston) on Idaho Capitol steps on Jan. 6 speaking during a local demonstration showing solidarity with “stop-the-steal” protestors in DC, which later turned violent. He's now under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct.

Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, a freshman Republican from Lewiston, is under investigation by the House ethics committee for allegedly raping an adult legislative volunteer.

As first reported by the Lewiston Tribune, von Ehlinger denied the accusation and said he was fully cooperating with the investigation.

He has not been charged with a crime.

According to the complaint filed by House Republican leaders on March 17, the victim, whose name was redacted, spoke with Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms Kim Blackburn the morning of March 11.

The victim told Blackburn that von Ehlinger took her to Barbacoa Grill for dinner on March 10 and later went back to his apartment to grab something he had forgotten.

“The details of what occurred next are unclear,” the report states, but the victim said at some point he started taking off her clothes, put his penis in her mouth and ejaculated on her.

The victim said she told von Ehlinger she didn’t want to do that, but “you know he has a gun,” which she believed he carries at all times.

Idaho law includes forced oral sex under the definition of rape.

She told Blackburn that von Ehlinger was nice to her while at work, letting her keep the change when she picked up lunch for him and occasionally filled her car up with gas.

When Blackburn asked if she wanted her to report this, the victim initially said she was afraid and didn’t know what to do. After throwing up in the bathroom, according to the complaint, she agreed to report it.

The Idaho Attorney General’s office referred the allegations to the Boise Police Department for a criminal investigation. House GOP leadership was made aware of the report March 12, but was told not to take further action in case it interfered with the investigation.

On March 16, the complaint states the criminal investigation would not be moving forward by request of someone whose name is redacted. At that point, top House Republicans “felt compelled” to bring the issue before the ethics committee.

Committee members unanimously found probable cause to make the accusations public and hold a public hearing on the matter, during which evidence and testimony may be presented and von Ehlinger may defend himself.

He’s formally charged with “conduct unbecoming of a Representative which is detrimental to the integrity of the House as a legislative body” under House rules.

The House ethics committee is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats who have voting power when considering ethics complaints.

Four of the five committee members must agree on a recommendation to the entire House, which can include dismissal of charges, a formal reprimand, censure – with or without restrictions – or expulsion.

Expulsion can only be considered if committee members believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the elected official committed a felony or used their office for monetary gain. Such a move would require approval from two-thirds of the entire House.

A reprimand or censure would only need a simple majority vote in the House.

“This episode is an embarrassment to me, but I assure my constituents in Nez Perce and Lewis counties that I have not broken any laws or legislative rules, nor have I violated the concepts of appropriate social conduct,” von Ehlinger said in a news release.

Scott McKay, another lawyer for von Ehlinger, laid out his side of the story in a letter to House ethics committee chair Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay) April 2 during confidential proceedings.

In it, von Ehlinger said the sex was consensual, that he never paid for her gas or let her keep the change when picking up lunch for him.

He said he never supervised the victim or asked her to do anything for him at the legislature.

“...at no point did any ‘power differential’ play a role in their interactions,” his attorney wrote.

Von Ehlinger also said the two went to Barbacoa Grill on March 9 – one day prior to the date the victim told the other House staffer.

Afterwards, von Ehlinger said they were laying in bed and he claimed the victim told him something to the effect of “I hope you know that I’m a little crazy. Actually, I’m really crazy.”

Von Ehlinger goes on to claim she told him “something like, ‘I could make your life a living hell if I wanted to, but I won’t. You’re just a big cuddly teddy bear.”

The letter said von Ehlinger decided after she left that night he wouldn’t pursue a relationship with the victim.

He said he next spoke to her on March 11 when she told him he had taken advantage of her. He later said it sounded like she was being coached through the call in an attempt to get him to admit to assaulting her.

More than two weeks later, on March 29, von Ehlinger took a lie detector test asking if he had ever given money to the victim, if the victim had said she didn’t want to have sex during the encounter and whether he had ever supervised her, which McKay said he passed. A copy of the results was given to the committee.

A public hearing is expected to be held the week of April 26, according to William Myers, an outside attorney hired by the House ethics committee.

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

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