Former Idaho legislator accused of raping an intern takes the stand

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former Idaho state legislator accused of raping a state intern last year took the stand Thursday to testify in his defense.

Aaron von Ehlinger, 39, has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and sexual penetration with a foreign object and maintains that he had consensual sex with the intern.

He resigned from the House of Representatives last year after a legislative ethics committee recommended that he be banned from the House of Representatives.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, and has referred to the woman in this case as “Jane Doe” at her request.

Doe was a 19-year-old intern when she told her supervisors that von Ehlinger, then a Republican representative from Lewiston, raped her in March 2021 at her Boise apartment after the two had dinner at a restaurant.

Both charges carry a maximum sentence of up to life in prison.

Before von Ehlinger took the stand, Judge Michael Reardon denied a defense attorney’s motion that suggested von Ehlinger should be acquitted of all charges.

The attorney, Jon Cox, said there was insufficient evidence, based on statements Doe made to Anne Wardle, the nurse who examined the intern after the alleged rape, that Doe adequately resisted von Ehlinger’s advances.

“I would say there is no testimony from Ms. Wardle that (Doe) did nothing other than make excuses as to why she didn’t want to do it,” Cox said. “I don’t think that reaches the level of being against his will; she didn’t say, ‘Don’t do that, I don’t want that.’”

But Ada County Assistant District Attorney Katelyn Farley said Cox was misrepresenting the testimony, noting that Wardle and investigators testified that Doe told them that she said no.

Farley also said testimony showed that von Ehlinger was much larger than Doe, was carrying a gun, physically dragged her onto a couch and into the bedroom, and that she resisted in various ways.

The judge denied that motion, referring to additional testimony from Wardle.

“From what I have heard of the evidence, it seems to me that there is sufficient evidence of the use of force: statements about her shaking her head back and hitting the wall causing an appreciable bruise,” Reardon said.

Doe testified Wednesday, haltingly describing the moments the assault began, before abruptly leaving the witness stand.

“I can’t do this,” she said, hurrying out of the courtroom.

The judge gave prosecutors 10 minutes to find her and determine if she would return and resume her testimony.

When she didn’t, Reardon told jurors that they had to “write (Doe’s testimony) out of their minds like it never happened” because the defense couldn’t cross-examine her.

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