Idaho lawmaker accused of rape resigns after ethics ruling

Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, left, R-Lewiston sits next to his attorney Edward Dindinger, center, and Idaho Deputy Attorney General Emma Nowacki, right, while waiting for a legislative ethics committee to begin, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Boise, Idaho. Von Ehlinger is facing the ethics hearing after a 19-year-old legislative intern reported that he raped her at his apartment after the two had dinner. The Boise Police Department is also investigating the allegations. Von Ehlinger has denied any wrongdoing and maintains the two had consensual sexual contact. He refused to answer some questions during a legislative ethics hearing Wednesday after his attorney told him to invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination. (AP Photo/Rebecca Boone)
Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, left, R-Lewiston sits next to his attorney Edward Dindinger, center, and Idaho Deputy Attorney General Emma Nowacki, right, while waiting for a legislative ethics committee to begin, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Boise, Idaho. Von Ehlinger is facing the ethics hearing after a 19-year-old legislative intern reported that he raped her at his apartment after the two had dinner. The Boise Police Department is also investigating the allegations. Von Ehlinger has denied any wrongdoing and maintains the two had consensual sexual contact. He refused to answer some questions during a legislative ethics hearing Wednesday after his attorney told him to invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination. (AP Photo/Rebecca Boone) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BOISE, Idaho – An Idaho lawmaker accused of rape by a 19-year-old legislative intern has resigned after an ethics committee found he should be formally censured.

The investigation into Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger began in March after a young staffer reported he raped her in his apartment after the two had dinner at a Boise restaurant. Von Ehlinger has denied all wrongdoing and maintains he had consensual sexual contact with the young woman. He resigned Thursday after an ethics committee unanimously agreed that he engaged in “behavior unbecoming” and recommended that he be suspended without pay for the rest of the legislative session.

The Boise Police Department is investigating the rape allegations, and von Ehlinger has not been charged.

The Republican from Lewiston wrote in his resignation letter that he hoped stepping down would spare his colleagues from having to deal with the ethics committee's recommendation, which he disagreed with.

“After careful deliberation and prayer I have determined that I will not be able to effectively represent my constituents and ... have decided to resign my seat effective immediately,” von Ehlinger wrote. “ ... I maintain my innocence of any wrongdoing of which I have been accused in this matter.”

The ethics panel had also recommend that von Ehlinger be held in contempt for refusing to answer some questions during his testimony on Wednesday. The lawmaker invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself on the advice of his attorney, but Idaho law states that testimony given in a legislative ethics panel can't be used in criminal court cases. That means the Fifth Amendment doesn't apply, the committee said.

The investigation into von Ehlinger began in March after a young staffer reported he raped her in his apartment after the two had dinner at a Boise restaurant. Von Ehlinger has denied all wrongdoing and maintains they had consensual sexual contact. The Boise Police Department is investigating, and von Ehlinger has not been charged.

The five-member ethics panel also agreed that they would throw unanimous support behind a motion to expel von Ehlinger if any House lawmaker decides to make one.