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Oct. 14—Former Lewiston state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger made his initial court appearance Wednesday morning in Ada County Magistrate Court before Judge John T. Hawley Jr., who arraigned him on felony charges of rape and forcible penetration with a foreign object.
Von Ehlinger was present for the hearing via Zoom from the office of his Boise attorney, Jon R. Cox. The Ada County Sheriff's Office arrested von Ehlinger on Friday after deputies transported him back to Idaho from Clayton County, Ga., where was arrested in September on a fugitive warrant after returning to the U.S. from a trip out of the country.
Ada County jail personnel processed von Ehlinger and set him free without bond on a book-and-release warrant. Hawley informed him of the charges against him at the Wednesday hearing, and asked if he understood them.
"Yes, your honor, I am aware of those laws," von Ehlinger responded.
Hawley also asked if he understood the terms of a no-contact order issued Sept. 9 between him and the alleged victim in the case, and he said he did.
The Ada County Prosecutor's office charged von Ehlinger in connection with an alleged March 9 incident when he was serving his first term in the Idaho Legislature. Following a dinner date with a 19-year-old House intern, they went to his apartment and had sex.
Von Ehlinger said the sex was consensual, but the intern told House officials he raped her. Details in the charging documents aren't publicly known because of a court order to seal records in the case over privacy concerns.
After the intern reported von Ehlinger, he repeatedly claimed he was innocent not only of any criminal wrongdoing, but of any breach of "the concepts of appropriate social conduct."
The Idaho House Ethics Committee disagreed. It concluded von Ehlinger engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the Idaho House months before the charges were even filed, and recommended that he be censured and suspended without pay for the remainder of his term. He resigned in April, before the full House could vote on the matter.
Hawley set a preliminary hearing for von Ehlinger at 8:30 a.m. PDT Oct. 29 before Magistrate Judge Kira L. Dale, where the prosecution will have to prove that it is more likely than not that von Ehlinger committed the crimes.
If Dale finds that the prosecution meets that burden, she will bind the case over to district court for further proceedings. Preliminary hearings in complicated or high-profile cases can be lengthy because of the presentation of evidence and the testimony of witnesses, and they are commonly delayed because of the need for detailed preparations. Von Ehlinger would have to waive his right to a speedy preliminary hearing for any delays to be granted, however.
Mills may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 310-1901, ext. 2266.