Jury begins deliberations in rape trial of former Idaho lawmaker | Region

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Jurors in the rape trial of a former Idaho lawmaker are weighing whether the case involves “power in the wrong hands” used to harm a 19-year-old intern or consensual sex after a friendly dinner.

The jury of six men and six women heard the two taken during closing arguments on Thursday after a dramatic three-day trial in which the young woman fled from the witness box during her testimony saying “I can’t do that”.

Aaron von Ehlinger, 39, has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and sexual penetration with a foreign object – both charges carry a maximum sentence of up to life in prison – and maintains that he has had consensual sex with the 19-year-old lawmaker. internal.

The Associated Press does not generally identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted and referred to the woman in the case as “Jane Doe” at her request.

Doe told her superiors that von Ehlinger, who was then a Republican Representative from Lewiston, raped her in March 2021 at her Boise apartment after the two dined at a restaurant. Von Ehlinger resigned from the House of Representatives last year after a legislative ethics committee recommended he be banned from the Statehouse over his conduct with Doe.

When the allegations became public – largely due to the legislative ethics inquiry – Doe had to face constant harassment of some von Ehlinger supporters. His name, photo and personal details about his life have been made public several times in “doxxing” incidents. One of the people who frequently harassed her was at the courthouse to attend the trial, but law enforcement banned the man from going to the floor where the case was being heard.

Over the span of three days, jurors heard graphic and at times harrowing testimony, including from Doe who briefly took the witness stand before abruptly standing up and leaving the courtroom.

Doe hesitantly described the times the alleged assault began.

“He laid me down…he took his clothes off…he climbed on top of me…just in his boxers.” White t-shirt,” Doe said. “He tried to put his fingers between my legs and I closed my knees.”

With that, she stood up.

“I can’t do this,” she said as she quickly left the courtroom.

The judge ordered them to disregard her testimony after Doe fled before she could be questioned by the defense.

During closing arguments, Ada County Assistant District Attorney Katelyn Farley told jurors the case was about “power in the wrong hands” accustomed to Doe’s “great devastation.” Von Ehlinger had social, political, and physical power over little trainee Farley. mentioned.

“He used that power to rape her and forcibly penetrate her,” Farley said, pointing at von Ehlinger. Doe resisted in several ways, she said, pointing to testimony from law enforcement investigators and a sexual assault nurse examiner who interviewed Doe after the alleged assault.

“Words show the absence of consent. Excuses of “Why shouldn’t this happen” show a lack of consent. Pulling your head back and hurting yourself shows a lack of consent,” Farley said.

But von Ehlinger’s defense attorney Jon Cox told jurors the prosecution’s case was “red runaways” and said von Ehlinger was a credible person who willingly spoke up to share his version of the story.

“Judge by his credibility, that’s all you can do,” Cox said. “For every claim made by the state, or any evidence…Aaron gave you a, ‘This is what happened.’ That, in itself, creates a reasonable doubt.”

During his testimony, von Ehlinger often spoke in a clear, loud voice directly to jurors, telling them that sexual contact was the high point of a first date with the intern.

“She was flirting with me, so I was like, ‘Why not? Go out to dinner with someone? Why not?'” he said.

After eating at a fancy restaurant in Boise, he and Doe decided to go back to his apartment where they started making out on the couch, he said.

“Things were going well and I asked (Doe) if she wanted to move into the bedroom,” von Ehlinger said. “She said ‘Of course.’ We got up, held hands and walked into the bedroom.

In the bedroom, things got “hot and heavy”, von Ehlinger said, and he walked away to undress behind his closet door, neatly hanging up his suit jacket, tie and trousers, before go back to bed. At her suggestion, Doe briefly performed oral sex, he said. He also denied carrying a gun that night and said he rarely carried one.

“Very rarely, and certainly not with a costume,” von Ehlinger said.

But when questioned by Farley, he admitted that he had described the events of that night differently in statements written by two different lawyers he had previously hired to represent him. In those statements, he said he and Doe undress each other.

He also said he usually carried concealed weapons when carrying firearms, most often a small handgun that he placed in the front pocket of his jeans or dress pants.

Earlier this week, jurors heard from investigators and a nurse who conducted a rape examination. They testified that Doe said she was cornered while von Ehlinger forced her to perform oral sex, and that she knew he frequently carried a handgun and placed it on a chest of drawers near the bed when he aggression. A nurse also testified that Doe had a “goose egg” on the back of her head after hitting the wall or a headboard while trying to free her head from von Ehlinger’s grasp.

Elna M. Lemons