Shock Verdict: Ex-Republican Lawmaker Guilty of Raping Teen Intern


After 11 hours of deliberation, an Idaho jury has found disgraced ex-Idaho GOP state lawmaker Aaron von Ehlinger guilty of raping a 19-year-old intern last year after a dinner date.

The decision followed a lurid three-day trial in which von Ehlinger vehemently disputed the allegations, insisting the encounter had been consensual, and his accuser, who testified under the pseudonym Jane Doe, fled the courtroom mid-way through her emotional testimony.

Her dramatic exit meant her testimony was struck entirely, setting up a seemingly insurmountable hurdle for prosecutors, criminal defense lawyer David P. Shapiro said prior to the verdict.

“It will be very, very difficult, if not impossible, to get a conviction without her testimony,” Shapiro, who was not involved with the case but has handled many similar ones, had predicted to The Daily Beast.

But the jury was able to hear powerful testimony from Doe’s mother, as well as a hospital nurse who examined Doe in the aftermath of the attack, finding their statements credible enough to convict the failed politician.

On the stand, von Ehlinger, 39, said he met Doe while working in the Idaho Statehouse and the pair struck up conversations in the hallways and over text before arranging to go out for dinner at a Boise steakhouse. He said the date had gone “well” and Doe accompanied him home afterwards. He claimed Doe held his hand on the ride back to his apartment, and that she willingly accompanied him to his bedroom.

“I complimented her, I let her know how beautiful she was… She never once gave me any indication that she did not want to participate in this,” von Ehlinger testified.

He claimed Doe “willingly” performed oral sex on him for about 15 seconds before stopping and saying it was “probably not a good night to have sex” because she hadn’t shaved and wasn’t on birth control. He claimed he then stimulated himself manually and ejaculated on Doe’s stomach with her consent.

To the contrary, prosecutor Katelyn Farley said von Ehlinger told Doe that he needed to stop by his apartment after dinner to pick something up, and that once they arrived, he picked her up and carried her into his bedroom. There, Farley said, von Ehlinger assaulted her, forcing his penis into her mouth and holding her arms down as he ejaculated on her stomach.

“He didn’t stop and he didn’t listen to [Doe],” Farley told the jury, describing the case as one characterized by a “power” indifference.

On Thursday, von Ehlinger’s attorney, Jon Cox, argued that his client, an Army vet, had previously hurt his back in a service-related helicopter crash and couldn’t have lifted Doe and carried her as described.

But a nurse who treated Doe at a local hospital said in her emotional testimony that the teen was nothing short of an unwilling participant.

“She didn’t want to be there,” said Anne Wardle, who administered a rape exam and said Doe had been in tears when recounting the experience. “She didn’t want his penis anywhere near her mouth.”

Wardle said Doe, who had previously volunteered at a domestic violence advocacy center, had a “goose egg” on her head from hitting von Ehlinger’s wall or headboard as she struggled to break away.

On Wednesday, Doe briefly took the stand but abruptly got up and left the courtroom after struggling visibly to compose herself in front of her alleged attacker. She said, “I can’t do this,” before bolting from the courtroom.

Doe has been targeted by von Ehlinger’s fellow Republicans from the get-go. Last August, Republican Rep. Priscilla Giddings exposed Doe’s identity on social media and in an email to constituents, with right-wing blogs subsequently posting her name and photo online.

Von Ehlinger, who resigned from state politics shortly before his arrest, faces life in prison and mandatory registration as a sex offender.