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Trial begins for former Idaho lawmaker accused of rape

UPDATED: Tue., April 26, 2022

FILE - State Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, listens during a hearing at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, on April 28, 2021. The trial for the former Idaho lawmaker accused of raping a 19-year-old legislative intern began on Monday, April 25, 2022, with attorneys asking potential jurors about their political leanings and whether they saw news stories about the case.  (Darin Oswald)
FILE - State Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, listens during a hearing at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, on April 28, 2021. The trial for the former Idaho lawmaker accused of raping a 19-year-old legislative intern began on Monday, April 25, 2022, with attorneys asking potential jurors about their political leanings and whether they saw news stories about the case. (Darin Oswald)
By Rebecca Boone Associated Press

BOISE – The trial for a former Idaho lawmaker accused of raping a 19-year-old legislative intern began Monday with attorneys asking potential jurors about their political leanings, their experience with sexual assault cases and whether they saw news stories about the case.

Aaron von Ehlinger was charged with rape and penetration with a foreign object, both felonies, after a young Statehouse staffer reported that he raped her at his apartment after the two had dinner at a Boise restaurant. At the time, von Ehlinger was a state representative from Lewiston, but he later resigned after an ethics committee unanimously agreed he engaged in “behavior unbecoming” and recommended that he be suspended without pay for the rest of the legislative session.

Von Ehlinger has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry maximum penalties of life in prison.

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.

A few potential jurors were excused after they said they had seen news coverage about the rape allegations and the ethics investigations the case spawned. Jane Doe faced significant harassment from some of von Ehlinger’s supporters after news of the allegations surfaced, with some blog sites releasing her real name and personal details about her life.

Another lawmaker, Rep. Priscilla Giddings of Whitebird, Idaho, then widely disseminated the former intern’s name in newsletters and on social media, sharing one of the blogs that originally identified her.

Another juror was excused after he said he didn’t know how anyone could remain a member of the Republican Party.

The jury of 12 people and one alternate was seated around noon. Opening arguments in the case were expected to start later that day.

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