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A former Idaho legislator was convicted of raping a teenager that interned at the statehouse following a dramatic trial where the victim walked off the witness stand.
A jury found that Aaron von Ehlinger, 39, was guilty of raping a 19-year-old legislative intern at his apartment after eating dinner with her at a Boise restaurant last March.
Von Ehlinger, a Republican who stepped down from his post as a Lewiston representative a month after being accused, was found not guilty of sexual penetration with a foreign object. He maintained the encounter was consensual.
The former lawmaker faces a minimum of one year in prison and up to life behind bars at his sentencing, scheduled for July.
His anonymous accuser took the stand during the second day of the trial before abruptly changing her mind.
“He tried to put his fingers between my legs and I closed my knees,” she said, before standing up.
“I can’t do this,” she said before briskly leaving the courtroom.
When she did not return, her testimony was stricken from the record because the defense did not have the chance to cross-examine her.
Prosecutors praised the young woman’s bravery at a press conference after the trial.
“It took an incredible amount of courage for the victim in this case, Jane Doe, to come forward,” Ada County Prosecuting Attorney Jan Bennetts said.
“I want to acknowledge the courage that she took in coming forward.”
Von Ehlinger remained calm when the verdict was read following seven hours of deliberation. He had told the jury he asked the intern to “hang out” following dinner at a fancy restaurant and said they ended up making out at his apartment.
“Things were going well, and I asked (Doe) if she would like to move to the bedroom,” von Ehlinger said. “She said ‘Sure.’ We got up, held hands and walked into the bedroom.”
Prosecutors argued the then-representative abused “social, political and physical power over the petite intern.”
“He used that power to rape and forcibly penetrate her,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katelyn Farley told the jury during closing arguments.
A nurse testified that the teen suffered a “goose egg” on the back of her head when she hit it trying to escape from von Ehlinger, who she said pinned her down and forced her to perform oral sex while displaying his gun on a dresser near his bed.
Defense lawyers argued the prosecution’s case was full of “red herrings,” and said von Ehlinger’s testimony was credible.
Another former staffer and a lobbyist and told a Boise ethics committee that von Ehlinger’s attempts at flirting had made them “uncomfortable” last April.
Publicity from the legislative investigation into the Republican’s conduct led to the accuser being doxxed online by some of his political supporters. One of her harassers tried to attend the trial but was kept out of the courtroom.
With AP wires