A former Idaho lawmaker was convicted on Friday of raping a teenage intern after a dramatic trial in which the young woman fled the witness stand during testimony, saying "I can't do this."
After a three-day trial, 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 steakhouse last March.
Von Ehlinger Accused of Forcing His Penis into Victim's Mouth, Ejaculating on Her
Von Ehlinger, a Republican who stepped down from his position as a Lewiston representative in the wake of the accusations, was found not guilty of sexual penetration with a foreign object.
According to prosecutors, 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]," prosecutor Katelyn Farley told the jury, describing the case as one characterized by a "power" indifference.
Ehlinger Claimed the Sexual Encounter was Consensual
On the stand, von Ehlinger, 39, said he met the accuser, identified only as "Jane Doe," in the Idaho Statehouse and decided to go on a date to the Boise restaurant after striking up conversations and exchanging text messages.
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.
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.
Nurse Testified Saying Doe was a Victim of Forced Sex
A nurse who treated Doe at a local hospital said in her emotional testimony that there were several signs that led her to believe that Doe was 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 from him.
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. "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.
Von Ehlinger, who resigned from state politics shortly before his arrest, faces life in prison and mandatory registration as a sex offender.