Following a dramatic trial in which the victim walked off the witness stand, a former Idaho legislator was convicted of raping a teenager interned at the statehouse. Aaron von Ehlinger, 39, was found guilty of raping a 19-year-old legislative intern at his apartment last March after eating dinner with her at a Boise restaurant.
Von Ehlinger, a Republican who resigned as a Lewiston representative a month after being charged, was found not guilty of sexual penetration with a foreign object. He insisted that the encounter was mutual.
At his July sentencing, the former lawmaker faces a minimum of one year in prison and a maximum of life in prison.
During the second day of the trial, his anonymous accuser took the stand before abruptly changing her mind.
“He tried to put his fingers between my legs, and I closed my knees,” she explained before rising to her feet.
“I can’t do it,” she said as she exited the courtroom quickly.
Because she did not return, her testimony was omitted from the record because the defence did not have the opportunity to cross-examine her.
During a press conference following the trial, prosecutors praised the young woman’s bravery.
“It took a tremendous amount of courage for the victim in this case, Jane Doe, to come forward,” said Ada County Prosecuting Attorney Jan Bennetts.
“I’d like to acknowledge her bravery in coming forward.”
When the verdict was read after seven hours of deliberation, Von Ehlinger remained calm. He told the jury that after dinner at a fancy restaurant, he asked the intern to “hang out,” and that they ended up making out at his apartment.
“Everything was going well, so I asked (Doe) if she wanted to move to the bedroom,” von Ehlinger explained. “‘Sure,’ she said. We stood up, held hands, and entered the bedroom.”
Prosecutors claimed the former representative abused his “social, political, and physical power over the petite intern.”
During closing arguments, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katelyn Farley told the jury, “He used that power to rape and forcibly penetrate her.”
A nurse testified that the teen hit her head on the back of her head while attempting to flee von Ehlinger, who she claimed pinned her down and forced her to perform oral sex while displaying his gun on a dresser near his bed.
Defense attorneys argued that the prosecution’s case was riddled with “red herrings,” and that von Ehlinger’s testimony was reliable.
Another former staffer and lobbyist told a Boise ethics committee last April that von Ehlinger’s flirting made them “uncomfortable.”
As a result of the legislative investigation into the Republican’s behaviour, the accuser was doxxed online by some of his political supporters. One of her harassers attempted to attend the trial but was denied entry.