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Idaho ex-lawmaker makes 1st court appearance on rape charge

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 13, 2021

State Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, listens during a hearing at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise in April.  (Darin Oswald)
State Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, listens during a hearing at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise in April. (Darin Oswald)
By Rebecca Boone Associated Press

BOISE – A former state lawmaker made his first appearance in an Idaho courtroom on charges that he raped a young legislative intern earlier this year.

Aaron von Ehlinger attended the court proceeding before Ada County Magistrate Judge John Hawley through a remote video connection Wednesday . Von Ehlinger waived the formal reading of the charges against him – rape and forcible penetration by use of a foreign object, both felonies – and the judge set a preliminary hearing for Oct. 29.

“Aaron’s just anxious to have this process run its course,” said his attorney, John Cox, later Wednesday. “We intend to fight these allegations vigorously, and he’s looking forward to his days in court.”

Von Ehlinger was a Republican state representative from Lewiston when a 19-year-old legislative intern reported he brought her to his apartment under false pretenses and raped her. At the time, von Ehlinger denied all wrongdoing and maintained he had consensual sexual contact with the woman. The Associated Press doesn’t name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they agree to be publicly named.

A legislative ethics committee found von Ehlinger engaged in “behavior unbecoming” and committee members said they would support a vote to remove him from the Idaho Statehouse. Von Ehlinger resigned from office before the vote was held.

Von Ehlinger has not yet had the opportunity to enter a plea. In Idaho’s court system, most felony cases first go through a preliminary hearing, during which a magistrate judge determines if there is enough evidence to justify sending the case to district court. If the case is sent to district court, the defendant is then asked to enter a plea.

Both rape and forcible penetration by use of a foreign object carry maximum penalties of life in prison.

Idaho does not track many statistics related to sexual assault, but a 2016 report on sexual violence from the Idaho State Police found that only 19% of reported rapes result in an arrest, and only 15% of rape reports result in charges being filed. Only 4% of reported rapes result in a defendant being found guilty of a sex crime, according to the report.

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