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Ex-intern sues Idaho lawmakers for harassing her after rape


BOISE, Idaho — A former Idaho legislative intern is suing a lawmaker who was convicted of raping her and one of his colleagues for publicly disclosing the teenager’s identity and launching a campaign of harassment against her.

The young woman, who uses the pseudonym “Jane Doe” in the federal lawsuit, was just 19 when she reported as the then-Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger raped her in her apartment after the two dined at a restaurant in Boise in March 2021. The Associated Press does not generally identify people who say they were sexually assaulted.

In the lawsuit, Doe says von Ehlinger and then Rep. Priscilla Giddings, both Republicans, retaliated by publicly releasing his name, encouraging the media to publicize him, and lying about him. She is seeking unspecified damages, according to her lawsuit.

“Due to the disclosure of Ms. Doe’s identity, Ms. Doe has continuously suffered public humiliation and harassment on social media and at public events,” Doe’s attorneys, Erika Birch and Guy Hallam, wrote. in the trial.

Giddings did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is unclear whether von Ehlinger has an attorney to represent him in the lawsuit; his criminal public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since 2017, at least 120 lawmakers in 41 states have faced public allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment, according to an Associated Press tally. Of those, 48 have resigned or been expelled, including a Pennsylvania lawmaker accused of sexual harassment who tendered his resignation this week. Of the others who have been publicly charged, 45 have suffered repercussions such as the loss of a committee chairman or a party leadership position. Most of the allegations came after the #MeToo movement sparked a public trial for those in power accused of sexual wrongdoing.

In the Idaho case, Doe argues that Giddings and von Ehlinger conspired to violate his rights, invade his privacy, and inflict emotional distress on him. The lawsuit also includes libel claims against Giddings, who said derogatory things about Doe, and assault and battery claims against von Ehlingher.

Both Giddings and von Ehlinger’s efforts caused injury, including “extreme and continuing emotional distress,” Doe’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

Some of von Ehlinger’s supporters have continued to disparage Doe on social media and at public events in recent months. A man has repeatedly attended public and political events dressed as a drag queen like a beauty queen to mock Doe, wearing a sash bearing the young woman’s real name and the phrase “Miss Idaho Capitol.”

The investigation into von Ehlinger began on March 11, 2021, after Doe reported the assault to his supervisor at the Idaho Statehouse and Boise police. His report sparked an ethics investigation into von Ehlinger, who resigned before the full House could vote on whether to remove him from office. It also sparked a criminal investigation and in 2022 von Ehlinger was found guilty of rape and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, although he could be eligible for parole as early as 2030. of the investigation and trial, von Ehlinger maintained that he and Doe had consensual sexual contact.

Giddings was also censured by the Legislature Ethics Committee after her actions following Doe’s rape report came to light. She served the remainder of her term and ran for lieutenant governor, losing in the 2022 Republican primary.

On April 16, 2021, Von Ehlinger and his attorney David Leroy were asked to keep Doe’s name a secret by Doe’s attorneys and by the ethics committee, according to the lawsuit. Giddings, who apparently helped von Ehlinger write a press release about the ethics investigation, also spoke with Leroy and von Ehlinger that day, according to the lawsuit.

Just after 3 p.m. that day, von Ehlinger sent several reporters a copy of von Ehlinger’s official response to the ethics inquiry without redacting Doe’s name. Giddings then contacted a reporter to see if he planned to write about the statement.

Before the end of the working day, a far-right news site published an article with Doe’s real name, a picture of her when she was younger, and personal details about her life. Giddings then posted a link to the post on her Facebook account, along with Doe’s image as a minor. Giddings released the information again the next day, sending it as part of a “legislative update” email to his constituents, referring to Doe using a pejorative term.

Another far-right website also published Doe’s name printing a photo of the unredacted response that was sent by von Ehlinger’s lawyer.

Doe is asking a judge to award him damages of an undetermined amount, as well as interest, attorneys’ fees and other court costs.

Neither Giddings nor von Ehlinger filed a response to the lawsuit.


Associated Press correspondent David A. Lieb contributed from Jefferson City, Missouri.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.