Former Idaho lawmaker’s rape case moves forward in court

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A magistrate judge says there is enough evidence for a rape case against a former state lawmaker to move forward in court.

Aaron von Ehlinger, 39, was a Republican state representative from Lewiston when a 19-year-old legislative intern reported that he brought her to his apartment under false pretenses and raped her. Von Ehlinger has denied all wrongdoing and maintained he had consensual sexual contact with the woman. The Associated Press doesn’t name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they agree to be publicly named.

During a preliminary hearing on Friday, Ada County Magistrate Judge Kira Dale said that there was enough probable cause for von Ehlinger to face a felony trial on charges of rape and forcible penetration by use of a foreign object. She made the ruling after hearing testimony from a nurse who performed a sexual assault medical exam on the intern and a detective who testified that he collected a DNA sample from von Ehlinger during the course of the investigation.

The DNA sample was a match for body fluids collected from the intern during the rape exam, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Katelyn Farley told the court.

Anne Wardle, a sexual assault nurse examiner who examined the intern after she reported the assault, said the young woman was upset and tearful and reported having arm pain from where she said von Ehlinger had used his knees to hold her down during the assault.

Wardle also said the intern had a goose-egg-like lump on the back of her head. The intern told Wardle that the injury happened when she hit her head on a headboard while trying to jerk away from von Ehlinger, who had grabbed her by the hair.

Von Ehlinger’s attorney, Jon Cox, conceded that there was enough evidence to move the criminal case to district court, but he noted that preliminary hearings rely only on probable cause, which he said was “the lowest standard of proof in criminal law.”

Cox told the court that he expected the outcome would be different when he had an opportunity to fully question the state’s witnesses, including the intern who made the rape report.

Von Ehlinger is scheduled to be arraigned in district court on Nov. 8. He has not yet had an opportunity to enter a plea. Both rape and forcible penetration by use of a foreign object carry maximum penalties of life in prison.

Earlier this year during a legislative ethics committee hearing, von Ehlinger maintained he did nothing illegal during his encounter with the intern. The committee, however, found that von Ehlinger engaged in “behavior unbecoming” and said they would support a vote to remove him from the Idaho Statehouse. Von Ehlinger resigned from office before the vote was held.

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