Former Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger appeared before an Ada County judge this morning for a virtual arraignment on two felony charges, and was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 29.
Von Ehlinger, 39, is charged with rape and forcible penetration with a foreign object in connection with an incident during the legislative session involving a 19-year-old legislative intern. Von Ehlinger has acknowledged the sexual contact occurred, but maintained it was consensual. Magistrate Judge John Hawley Jr. asked von Ehlinger, “Do you understand what you have been charged with?”
“Yes, your honor, I am aware…,” von Ehlinger replied. He appeared along with his attorney, Jon R. Cox, from his attorney’s office.
“Has Mr. Cox explained to you what your rights are in a felony case?” the judge asked von Ehlinger. “Yes, your honor,” he replied.
Hawley also noted that a no-contact order was issued in the case on Sept. 9. “Mr. von Ehlinger, you’re not to have any contact with the alleged victim in this case,” the judge said. “Do you understand that no-contact order is out there?”
“Certainly, your honor,” von Ehlinger replied. The judge then set the preliminary hearing date, on which von Ehlinger will appear before Magistrate Judge Kira Dale. For trial, the case has been assigned to 4th District Judge Michael Reardon.
Von Ehlinger resigned from the Legislature in May after a House Ethics Committee recommended he be suspended from office without pay for the remainder of his term for “conduct unbecoming” a legislator, in connection with the incident along with von Ehlinger’s conduct toward several other women in the Capitol. Authorities continued to investigate the case, and on Sept. 10, Ada County issued a felony arrest warrant for von Ehlinger on the two charges.
He was arrested in Georgia on Sept. 25 on a “fugitive from justice” warrant after returning from Central America, though his attorney later maintained he’d been on a planned vacation, not fleeing the charges. He was extradited to Idaho after spending two weeks in jail in Georgia, and booked and released on the two felony charges.
If he is convicted of the charges, von Ehlinger could face up to life in prison and be required to register as a sex offender.
Here’s a full report from the Associated Press:
By Rebecca Boone
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — 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 morning. 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 that day. “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 that 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 that von Ehlinger engaged in “behavior unbecoming” and 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.