Intern to publicly testify on rape claim against lawmaker

FILE - The rotunda at the Idaho state Capitol Monday, Jan. 6, 2020 in Boise, Idaho. An Idaho legislative ethics committee will force a 19-year-old intern who says she was raped by an lawmaker to publicly testify about the encounter on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, the teen's representatives say. The teen's attorney, Annie Hightower with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, decried the move by the House Ethics and Policy Committee. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger, File)
FILE - The rotunda at the Idaho state Capitol Monday, Jan. 6, 2020 in Boise, Idaho. An Idaho legislative ethics committee will force a 19-year-old intern who says she was raped by an lawmaker to publicly testify about the encounter on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, the teen's representatives say. The teen's attorney, Annie Hightower with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, decried the move by the House Ethics and Policy Committee. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger, File)

BOISE, Idaho – An Idaho legislative ethics committee has ordered a 19-year-old intern who says she was raped by a lawmaker to publicly testify about the encounter on Wednesday, the teen’s representatives say.

The teen's attorney, Annie Hightower with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, decried the move by the House Ethics and Policy Committee.

“We learned late last night that the committee will compel her testimony via a subpoena,” Hightower said Tuesday. “We believe it should be her choice on whether to relive very traumatic events in a public form. Our client deserved better, and now she deserves accountability and the full respect and support of the public.”

Still, Caitlin Copple Masingill, who was assisting the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence in representing the intern, said the group was hopeful that the intern would be allowed to speak from behind a screen to shield her face from onlookers. The official subpoena had not yet been handed to the intern on Tuesday afternoon, she said.

The investigation into Lewiston Republican Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger’s conduct began in March, when the intern told a supervisor that the 38-year-old lawmaker raped her at his apartment after the two had dinner at a restaurant. The Boise Police Department has a criminal investigation underway, and the Legislature’s Ethics Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Wednesday to determine if the lawmaker “engaged in conduct unbecoming a representative which is detrimental to the integrity of the House.”

Von Ehlinger has denied the allegations and maintains the sexual encounter was consensual.

The intern has already been interviewed by the ethics committee and by law enforcement, Hightower said, and has “consistently told the truth about what happened that night.” Forcing her to testify publicly will magnify the trauma she has already experienced, the attorney said.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were sexually assaulted.