Jury Deliberates in Case of Former Idaho Lawmaker Accused of Rape

An Idaho jury went into deliberations Thursday after the testimony of a former lawmaker accused of raping a 19-year-old intern in March 2021.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, the intern, identified as “J.V.” in court documents, fled the courtroom halfway through her testimony on Wednesday, as she described her encounter with former state Representative Aaron von Ehlinger.

Von Ehlinger, 39, resigned in April 2021 after a state House ethics committee ruled that he engaged in “conduct unbecoming a representative” in his sexual pursuit of several women who worked at the state Capitol in Boise. During the committee proceedings, legislators heard that von Ehlinger made multiple women feel “uncomfortable” and, at times, “scared,” the Idaho Statesman said.

On Wednesday, J.V. was unable to complete her testimony. She answered questions with monosyllables, and when she reached the point of describing the assault itself, she abruptly stood up, said “I can’t do this,” and left the courtroom. Prosecutors were unable to persuade her to return, and Judge Michael Reardon struck her testimony from the record, ordering the jury to ignore it because defense attorneys were unable to cross examine her.

But Reardon denied a motion from the defense to dismiss the case, saying he’d heard “sufficient evidence of force” from other witnesses, including her mother, a nurse, and two detectives, all of whom J.V. spoke with very shortly after the alleged assault.

Von Ehlinger testified on Thursday that his encounter with J.V. was entirely consensual and that she willingly engaged in sex with him, saying “she never once gave me any indication that she was not wanting to participate.”

Von Ehlinger’s testimony directly contradicted what J.V. had told investigators about the encounter — that he’d pinned her down, tried to force his finger into her vagina, and finally forced his penis into her mouth.

On cross examination, von Ehlinger acknowledged that two previous attorneys had drafted a statement about the events on the night of the alleged assault that was substantially different from the story he told on the stand, according to the Associated Press. Von Ehlinger said in his direct testimony that he rarely carried a gun and was not carrying one that night — J.V. had said he placed his handgun on the nightstand by the bed — although in that earlier statement he said he frequently carried a concealed weapon.

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[Featured image: Aaron von Ehlinger/Ada County Sheriff’s Office]