Attorney: Lack of evidence, Sixth Amendment violations call for new trial for former Idaho lawmaker
Former state representative’s motion states new evidence conflicts with accuser’s public statements
Defense attorney Jon Cox makes arguments during the second day of testimony in the rape trial of former Idaho State Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger on April 27, 2022, at the Ada County Courthouse. (Brian Myrick/Idaho Press)
Former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger’s motion for a new trial is based on testimony from a witness and grounds that his constitutional rights were violated because the defense did not have the opportunity to cross-examine or confront his accuser, according to court documents filed Wednesday in Ada County.
Von Ehlinger was scheduled to be sentenced for a felony rape charge on July 28, but Fourth District Judge Michael Reardon granted a sentencing delay in anticipation of a motion for a new trial or acquittal.
A jury found von Ehlinger guilty of rape in April following a four-day trial. A 19-year-old legislative intern said von Ehlinger, then 39, took her to dinner, then back to his apartment, where she said he forced her to perform oral sex and inserted his fingers inside of her without her consent. The jury found von Ehlinger not guilty of the second charge of oral penetration.
Under Idaho Code, he faces between one year and life in prison for the rape charge.
Von Ehlinger’s attorney, Jon Cox, wrote in the motion for a new trial that testimony from Anne Wardle, a sexual assault nurse who examined Jane Doe after the night in question, was insufficient as evidence to convict von Ehlinger.
Aaron von Ehlinger represented Lewiston in the Legislature for less than one year. Gov. Brad Little appointed von Ehlinger to the Idaho House of Representatives on June 3, 2020, to fill the seat held by the late Rep. Thyra Stevenson. He resigned from the Legislature following an ethics hearing in the House of Representatives in April 2021. The ethics committee recommended his suspension or expulsion for the alleged conduct. Von Ehlinger had a history of misdemeanor violations on his record that were pardoned by the state of Idaho prior to the rape accusation and conviction.
What’s von Ehlinger’s history?
Aaron von Ehlinger represented Lewiston in the Legislature for less than one year. Gov. Brad Little appointed von Ehlinger to the Idaho House of Representatives on June 3, 2020, to fill the seat held by the late Rep. Thyra Stevenson. He resigned from the Legislature following an ethics hearing in the House of Representatives in April 2021. The ethics committee recommended his suspension or expulsion for the alleged conduct.
Von Ehlinger had a history of misdemeanor violations on his record that were pardoned by the state of Idaho prior to the rape accusation and conviction.
Cox said during questioning, prosecutors led Wardle to say von Ehlinger forced himself on Doe and said there was insufficient evidence to support the claim of rape. At the time, Cox made an objection to the questioning as leading the witness and Reardon overruled it.
Wardle said Doe had a bump on the back of her head where Doe said she hit the headboard while she was trying to jerk her body away from von Ehlinger, but no other physical injuries.
Cox also contends that von Ehlinger’s constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution were violated because Doe left the stand after less than 10 minutes, saying she couldn’t continue her testimony. Reardon instructed the jury to disregard her testimony since she did not return to the stand.
Doe did not appear under subpoena compelling her to testify, and Cox did not file a subpoena after her initial appearance. Reardon also asked if Cox wanted to motion for a mistrial after Doe fled the stand, and he declined.
Under Idaho law, a victim is not required to testify at a trial.
“The defendant asserts that the manner in which the state attempted to produce the accuser and the happenings that took place upon her taking the stand and then abruptly leaving, denying the right to fully confront and cross-examine, are ‘other grounds’ upon which a new trial can be granted,” Cox wrote in the motion.
In the motion for a new trial or acquittal, Cox also said the defense filed a sealed affidavit of new testimony from someone known as B.B. stating that Doe made “various claims to her about the circumstances of the night in question that were conflicting with the version of events told to Wardle.”
The state prosecution team will have the opportunity to file a response brief before von Ehlinger’s scheduled hearing on the motion for a new trial or acquittal at 3 p.m. Aug. 25. If the motion is denied, Reardon said he expects sentencing would follow less than two weeks later.
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