Former Idaho State Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger testifies on his own behalf during day three of his rape trial at the Ada County Courthouse, Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Brian Myrick/Idaho Press)
A jury of 13 Ada County residents did not reach a verdict after seven hours of deliberation on Thursday evening in the trial for former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger and will return Friday morning to continue deliberations.
Von Ehlinger took the stand Thursday morning to strongly deny the accusation that he raped a 19-year-old former legislative intern in March 2021 and to say all sexual activity on the night in question was consensual.
Von Ehlinger’s testimony happened shortly before closing arguments from the prosecution and defense, and the jury will now deliberate on a potential verdict for two felony charges: rape and forcible penetration by a foreign object.
If convicted, von Ehlinger faces between one year and life in prison and would have to register with the Idaho sex offender registry, according to Idaho Code.
Under the law, von Ehlinger did not have to testify to defend himself but chose to do so. His defense attorney, Jon Cox, questioned von Ehlinger first and asked when they first met. Von Ehlinger, 39, said their first exchange by text message was in early February, after he wrote his phone number on a business card and gave it to Jane Doe.
The Idaho Capital Sun does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault and refers to the former intern as Jane Doe.
Von Ehlinger said the two made plans to go to dinner on Tuesday, March 9, but it was unclear after cross-examination whether he classified it as a date, a business meeting or just friends meeting for dinner. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katelyn Farley asked if von Ehlinger asked Doe to dinner in his capacity as a state representative, and he said, “not necessarily.”
“She was flirting with me, so I thought, ‘Oh, why not?’” von Ehlinger said.
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The former legislator said the two decided to go to his apartment afterward, around 10 p.m., but Doe has said in prior testimony that the idea of going to his apartment wasn’t discussed. He invited her up to his second-floor apartment and she sat on the couch with him after he asked if she’d like to sit next to him, von Ehlinger said. The two started kissing, and he asked if she wanted to go into his bedroom, which he said she agreed to.
That contradicts Doe’s statement during her brief testimony on Wednesday, when she said von Ehlinger picked her up and carried her into the bedroom. A few minutes into her testimony, Doe left the stand, saying she couldn’t continue, and District Judge Michael Reardon ordered the jury to disregard her testimony.
During cross-examination, Farley asked von Ehlinger how much he thought Doe weighed, and he said, “143 pounds,” which he said was too much for him to carry because of an injury related to his military service.
Cox also asked von Ehlinger what Doe was wearing that night, because he said it was relevant to what kind of contact occurred. One of the charges against von Ehlinger is that he forcibly placed his fingers inside her.
Von Ehlinger said Doe was wearing a black skirt and a pink blouse.
“How short was the skirt?” Cox asked.
The prosecution objected to the question, so he didn’t answer, but later in his testimony when describing other contact, von Ehlinger said the skirt was “not long.”
At no point did Doe give any indication she didn’t want to engage, von Ehlinger said, but he did confirm she told him she didn’t want to have sex that night. Instead, he said she performed oral sex on him and then he stimulated himself to ejaculation on her stomach.
Sexual assault examiner and Saint Alphonsus nurse Anne Wardle testified on Tuesday and said Doe told her that von Ehlinger pulled her hair and forced his penis into her mouth, and she yanked her head away and hit it on the headboard. Wardle testified that she did find a lump on the back of Doe’s head, and said Doe told her he ejaculated on her while he had her arms pinned with his legs.
In closing arguments, the prosecution reiterated to the jury that the case was about power and control, given von Ehlinger’s status as a state representative and as someone 20 years older than Doe. Cox asked von Ehlinger if Doe seemed mature for her age, and he said yes.
Cox told the jury in closing arguments that the state had to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that it hadn’t proved it.
The jury proceeded to deliberations around 12:45 p.m. Thursday.
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