BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former Idaho lawmaker was found guilty Friday of raping a 19-year-old legislative intern after a dramatic trial in which the young woman fled from the witness box during a a testimony, saying “I can’t do that.”
The intern told a Statehouse supervisor that Aaron von Ehlinger raped her in his apartment after the two dined at a restaurant in Boise in March 2021. He said the sex was consensual.
At the time, von Ehlinger was a Lewiston state representative, but later quit.
Von Ehlinger, 39, was found guilty on Friday of rape. He was found not guilty of sexual penetration with a foreign body.
Von Ehlinger sat quietly as the verdict was read, as he did throughout the trial. Von Ehlinger spoke quietly with his attorney, who removed items from Von Ehlinger’s pockets as he was handcuffed and taken into custody.
Afterwards, 4th District Judge Michael Reardon told the jury, “This is an unusual case with many unexpected circumstances, but I appreciate your attention…and your hard work.”
Judgment is scheduled for July 28.
The Associated Press does not generally identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted and referred to the woman in the case as “Jane Doe” at her request.
Doe hesitantly described the moments the alleged assault began, before abruptly leaving the witness box.
“He tried to put his fingers between my legs and I closed my knees,” Doe said.
“I can’t do this,” she said as she quickly left the courtroom.
The judge gave prosecutors 10 minutes to find her to determine if she would return and resume her testimony.
When she didn’t, the judge told jurors they had to “wipe (Doe’s testimony) off your mind as if it never happened” because the defense couldn’t counter it. – interrogate.
During his testimony on Thursday, von Ehlinger often spoke in a clear, loud voice directly to jurors, saying he and Doe decided to return to his apartment to “hang out” after eating at a fancy restaurant in Boise. Then they started making out on the couch, he said.
“Things were going well and I asked (Doe) if she wanted to move into the bedroom,” von Ehlinger said. “She said ‘Of course.’ We got up, held hands and walked into the bedroom.
Deliberations stretched for seven hours until nearly 8 p.m. Thursday before the jury decided to take a break for the evening. At one point, the judge called the lawyers into his chambers because the jury asked a question. No details have been released about the jury’s inquest.
When the allegations became public—largely because of the Legislative Ethics Inquiry—Doe faced relentless harassment from some of von Ehlinger’s supporters. His name, photo and personal details about his life have been made public several times in “doxxing” incidents. One of the people who frequently harassed her was at the courthouse to attend the trial, but law enforcement banned the man from going to the floor where the case was being heard.
During closing arguments, Assistant Ada County District Attorney Katelyn Farley told jurors the case was about “power in the wrong hands” being used for the “great devastation” of Doe. Von Ehlinger had social, political and physical power over the little intern, Farley said.
“He used that power to rape her and forcibly penetrate her,” Farley said, pointing at von Ehlinger. Doe resisted in several ways, she said, pointing to testimony from law enforcement investigators and a sexual assault nurse examiner who interviewed Doe after the alleged assault.
“Words show the absence of consent. Excuses of “Why shouldn’t this happen” show a lack of consent. Pulling your head back and hurting yourself shows a lack of consent,” Farley said.
But von Ehlinger’s defense attorney Jon Cox told jurors the prosecution’s case was “red runaways” and said von Ehlinger was a credible person who willingly spoke up to share his version of the story.
Earlier this week, jurors heard from investigators and a nurse who conducted a rape examination. They testified that Doe said she was cornered while von Ehlinger forced her to perform oral sex, and that she knew he frequently carried a handgun and placed it on a chest of drawers near the bed when he aggression. A nurse also testified that Doe had a “goose egg” on the back of her head after hitting the wall or a headboard while trying to free her head from von Ehlinger’s grasp.