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Former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger appeals rape conviction to Idaho Supreme Court

Sept. 27, 2022 Updated Tue., Sept. 27, 2022 at 9:02 p.m.

Former Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger looks around the room before the start of his sentencing at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise on Wednesday, Aug. 31. He was convicted of raping a legislative intern in April.  (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman)
Former Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger looks around the room before the start of his sentencing at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise on Wednesday, Aug. 31. He was convicted of raping a legislative intern in April. (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman)
By Alex Brizee Idaho Statesman

Former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger has filed an appeal regarding his rape conviction to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Von Ehlinger has maintained his innocence after a 12-person jury unanimously found him guilty of raping a legislative intern last year. Fourth District Judge Michael Reardon in August sentenced the former Lewiston lawmaker to a total of 20 years in prison, with at least eight years fixed. He won’t be eligible for parole until 2030.

The former intern, 19 at the time of the sexual assault, said he forced her to perform oral sex at his Boise apartment after dinner.

In a nine-page notice of appeal, von Ehlinger’s lawyer Jon Cox alleged the court “erred during trial” by allowing Anne Wardle, the nurse who performed the sexual assault kit on the intern, to testify and corroborate the statements made by J.V., the intern who was raped. The appeal added that the error “was not harmless.”

This isn’t the first time von Ehlinger has attempted to reverse the court’s decision. After the April conviction, Cox filed a motion to retry or acquit the case stating that there was insufficient evidence to convict von Ehlinger.

Cox, in the appeal, also alleged that the court should have immediately declared a mistrial after J.V. “abruptly left” midtestimony. During the trial, J.V. took the stand briefly, but became overwhelmed with emotion and stopped testifying. Her short testimony was stricken from the record.

Cox was given the opportunity to move for a mistrial during the trial, but declined.

Reardon ruled on this issue during an August hearing on von Ehlinger’s motion to retry or acquit his case. Cox argued that the court violated von Ehlinger’s Sixth Amendment rights because he couldn’t cross-examine or confront J.V, but Reardon pointed to countless other cases in which victims don’t testify.

“I understand the concern about an accuser not being in court and delivering evidence, but there are a number of cases which are tried and proven without the injured party giving testimony,” Reardon said during the August hearing. “If the law required that the injured party gave testimony, the crime of homicide could never be prosecuted.”

In two separate motions, Cox asked for a public defender on von Ehlinger’s behalf and a transcript from the sentencing.

“I have an outstanding balance owed to my attorney which I am unable to pay,” von Ehlinger wrote in a sworn affidavit. Cox previously said that he was representing von Ehlinger pro bono.

He wrote that since he’s been in custody, he’s had no way to earn an income and that his monthly expenses are $4,700. He also said that he hasn’t been receiving his Social Security monthly income of $1,100, but he has received his U.S. Army disability income of $152.61 a month. Von Ehlinger previously stated his disability pension was $3,600 a month.

Both the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reduce or terminate their benefits for people convicted of a felony.

Von Ehlinger is asking for a transcript from his sentencing, and that it be paid at public expense because he is “indigent.” He previously asked for the transcript from his April trial, which was estimated to cost $2,733, to be paid at public expense. Reardon approved that request.

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