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Rape victim sues Idaho lawmakers for outing and harassing her

The victim said former Idaho state Representative Aaron von Ehlinger, who has been convicted of raping her, gave her personal information to the media.

(CN) — A young woman, who was a teenager when she was raped two years ago by former Idaho state Representative Aaron von Ehlinger, sued him and state Representative Priscilla Giddings for allegedly outing and harassing her after she came forward with her allegations.

Jane Doe filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Boise, Idaho, claiming von Ehlinger and Giddings conspired to violate her equal protection and free speech rights, among other claims.

According to the complaint, Doe worked as an intern at the Idaho Legislature in March 2021 when von Ehlinger started showing an interest in her and took her out to dinner. The lawmaker, who was about twice her age, took her back to his apartment after dinner and raped her.

Doe reported the rape and the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into her allegations. Von Ehlinger provided a confidential written response to the committee, which according to Doe's lawsuit contained numerous untruthful statements, including that they had consensual sex. The committee wasn't convinced by his response and proceeded with a public ethics complaint process against von Ehlinger.

This in turn prompted von Ehlinger, through his lawyer, to provide unredacted copies of his confidential response to the committee, which contained intimate details about Doe, and to the media. The conservative online publication Redoubt News then ran a story with the headline "Idaho Swamp Trying to Unseat Another Conservative" that included a photo of Doe when she was a minor.

Giddings in turn, according to the lawsuit, posted on her Facebook account a link to the Redoubt News article with a comment, “Follow the money! Idaho’s very own Kavanaugh.” The link posted the image with the picture of Doe as a minor, and the article contained Doe's name and a link to von Ehlinger's unredacted response to the ethics committee.

Giddings allegedly also used her legislative email to send out her weekly update that included defamatory and insulting comments about Doe under the “ugly” section, including calling her a “honey trap” and calling the ethics committee process “reminiscent of so many national ‘Me too’ witch hunts.” Her Legislative Update also contained a link and encouragement to read the Redoubt News article that publicly identified Doe and included her photo.

"Defendants von Ehlinger and Giddings acted under the color of law when depriving plaintiff of equal treatment under the law because of her sex/status as a survivor of sexual assault," Doe's complaint said. "Their actions violated a clearly established right to not be harassed because of sex/gender and/or as a female survivor reporting sexual assault. A reasonable official should have known about this right."

Von Ehlinger is serving a prison sentence of up to 20 years following his conviction last year of raping Doe. He couldn't be reached for comment. Giddings didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The complaint accuses von Ehlinger and Giddings, both Republicans, of conspiring to violate and violating Doe's equal protection rights, violating her free speech rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, as well as claims for assault and battery against von Ehlinger and defamation against Giddings.

Doe seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

She's represented by Erika Birch and T. Guy Hallam Jr. of Strindberg Scholnick Birch Hallam Harstad Thorne in Boise, Idaho.

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