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Woman who accused former Idaho legislator of rape has her identity revealed in conservative media

Idaho Statesman/TNS/Sipa USA

A legislative intern whose rape allegation against an Idaho state representative led to an investigation that resulted in his resignation last week was publicly named by a conservative media outlet, despite her desire to remain anonymous.

“I have worked with survivors for 14 years, and this process was the most harmful I have ever seen in my life,” the intern’s attorney, Anne Hightower with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, told CNN on Wednesday.

An ethics investigation against Republican state representative Aaron von Ehlinger began after the 19-year-old intern for another lawmaker accused von Ehlinger of engaging in nonconsensual sexual acts with her after taking her to dinner. The intern — who asks to be identified as “Jane Doe” — made a report to the Boise Police Department saying she was raped, according to an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

CNN does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent.

Von Ehlinger has not been charged with a crime. The Boise Police Department has not responded to multiple requests from CNN asking whether a criminal investigation is ongoing. His current attorney, Edward Dindinger, told CNN on Wednesday they have not received any further information from police about where things stand.

“It’s just irresponsible to publicly accuse someone of felony crimes before the investigation is complete,” Dindinger said.

Von Ehlinger told the Ethics Committee that the sexual encounter with Jane Doe was consensual. The committee heard public testimony from Doe from behind a curtain concealing her identity. But Hightower says the moment she left the committee room, Doe was hounded by activists, including two women with cellphone cameras trying to get video of her.

“Me and my co-counsel and several women who were bystanders rushed and surrounded her,” Hightower said, shielding her face with umbrellas until Capitol security escorted her out of the building.

Additionally, a local TV reporter recorded the incident with a cellphone. The reporter’s station subsequently apologized and erased her footage — which was never aired — and her Capitol credentials were revoked, according to Idaho Press Club president Betsy Z. Russell.

The scene was condemned by members of the committee. “Anybody who did harass or intimidate a witness should be reviewed for possible prosecution,” Democratic state Rep. John Gannon said at the conclusion of the four-day hearing.

But Hightower says she’s concerned about future victims who may be intimidated by the process. “I’m not naïve enough to think that this will never happen again,” she said.

In fact, Jane Doe’s identity already had been made public, when correspondence from one of von Ehlinger’s previous attorneys that included her name was published by a conservative news site. That report was further publicized by Republican state Rep. Priscilla Giddings, who linked to it via social media and her official constituent newsletter.

“Rep. Giddings must be held accountable for her actions in spreading lies in social media posts, intimidating the witness Jane Doe, & more lies during the hearing,” Democratic state Sen. Melissa Wintrow tweeted after the hearing.

Dindinger, von Ehlinger’s current attorney, told CNN that the letter was released by a previous lawyer working for von Ehlinger, but it was done without his client’s approval or consultation.

Rep. Giddings did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

The Ethics Committee — which is majority Republican — did not make a judgment on whether von Ehlinger had committed a crime, but did vote unanimously last Thursday to recommend that he be censured and suspended from his duties for “conduct unbecoming” in repeatedly propositioning women who worked in the Capitol for dates. Hours later, von Ehlinger resigned before the full House could act on the recommendation.

Dindinger told CNN on Wednesday that he was not at liberty to discuss any future steps von Ehlinger may take.

Hightower says their main concern now is that future witnesses don’t have to experience what happened to Doe. “Nothing we can do at this point can fix what happened to my client,” Hightower said.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story identified the wrong person who included Jane Doe’s name in correspondence published by a conservative news site. It was one of Aaron von Ehlinger’s previous attorneys.

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