A North Idaho lawmaker has resigned after an ethics committee decision Thursday morning.
Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R - Lewiston) was accused of rape and inappropriate conduct with a 19-year-old intern.
On Wednesday, a House Ethics Committee heard testimony from the victim, who is being identified only as Jane Doe. It also heard testimony from other women, who claimed von Ehlinger had made advances or romantically pursued them. One Capitol security officer also spoke about a sexual relationship she had with von Ehlinger.
Von Ehlinger refused to answer questions in the hearing on Wednesday, citing the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.
Previously, von Ehlinger had said his encounter with the 19-year-old was consensual.
Today, the ethics committee unanimously voted to approve a motion to censure von Ehlinger, either by suspending him without pay or permanently expelling him from the Legislature.
The full House would have to vote on what action to take.
However, House officials said not long after the committee's decision - around 1:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon - von Ehlinger resigned his seat.
In making its decision, the committee said von Ehlinger had a history of pursuing women who work at the Statehouse, which creates an unsafe work environment. The committee called his behavior "unbecoming."
One lawmaker even said that von Ehlinger had "a predatory pattern."
Gov. Brad Little responded to the committee's decision on Thursday, supporting the move.
“I applaud Jane Doe and the other brave women for their courage in telling their stories and participating in this process to hold Representative Aaron von Ehlinger accountable for his deeply damaging and shameful actions. I fully support the House Ethics and House Policy Committee’s recommendation to expel Representative Aaron von Ehlinger. Representative von Ehlinger’s inappropriate and alarming actions stand in opposition to the values and behavior state elected officials must uphold. Being elected by the people and serving in a legislative body carries immense weight and responsibility to act with dignity, civility, and integrity at all times. State elected officials are held to a higher standard. As a former state senator and Lieutenant Governor, I personally understand the importance of preserving the credibility of the legislative institution so the people of Idaho can have confidence in their state government. Now, the public expects the full Idaho House Representatives to carry out the recommendation of the committee and ensure the integrity of the Idaho Legislature.”
Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke also issued a statement about the proceedings:
“First, let me thank Jane Doe for her incredible courage and determination in testifying in front of the Ethics and House Policy Committee yesterday. Every member of the House of Representatives is not only expected but required to perform their duties with the highest levels of integrity and dignity. Former Representative Aaron von Ehlinger was found by the Ethics Committee to fall far short of that requirement. After a transparent and fair hearing, the Committee accurately determined that von Ehlinger engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of this House. His behavior is something we will not tolerate and casts a shadow over the good work done in the Idaho Statehouse. It is our privilege to serve and practicing strong ethics is central to serving in these hallowed halls.”
The House Democratic Caucus also issued a joint statement, following von Ehlinger's resignation:
“We are in awe of Jane Doe’s bravery in coming forward and testifying before the House Ethics Committee. We also applaud the other women who spoke during the hearing and shared their stories. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to make a report and participate in such a public process.
If we are to eliminate sexual assault and abuse, we must create an environment for safe, supportive reporting by survivors. We are deeply disappointed that at least one lawmaker, a journalist, and several audience members at the hearing sought to reveal Jane Doe’s identity and further traumatize her.
Our caucus is thankful for the committee’s due diligence in this matter, and know their recommendation was made after an exhaustive investigation and careful deliberations. We completely support their recommendation, as well as Rep. von Ehlinger’s decision to resign. However, we wish he would have done this before forcing Jane Doe and the other women to relive their experiences within the public sphere. His actions were inexcusable, and the behavior he displayed must not be tolerated here — or anywhere. We have to ensure individuals always remain accountable for their actions no matter their station.”