A former Idaho lawmaker, Aaron von Ehlinger, has been sued by the rape survivor, Jane Doe, for violating her First Amendment rights. Another former legislator, Priscilla Giddings, is also named in the federal lawsuit.
In 2022, von Ehlinger was sentenced to 20 years in prison for raping Jane Doe in 2021. It was alleged that he had invited the statehouse intern to dinner and then sexually assaulted her at his Boise apartment. During an ethics hearing by the legislature in April 2021, Doe testified in an emotional speech behind a black curtain to protect her privacy. However, she was followed out of the statehouse and verbally attacked by von Ehlinger supporters. Although the committee voted to expel von Ehlinger, he resigned instead.
The lawsuit filed on March 8, 2023, alleges that Giddings, who lost her election for lieutenant governor in 2022, was communicating with von Ehlinger throughout the investigation and altered his press releases about Doe and the assault accusations. In April 2021, Giddings re-posted an article from a right-wing website on her official Facebook page and legislative newsletters that contained pictures of Doe, exposing her identity. Giddings later denied posting the picture of Doe during the ethics hearing. The post included other personal information about Doe, leading local advocacy groups to call for the Legislature to hold Giddings accountable and remove her from leadership roles. The ACLU condemned Giddings’ actions, stating that “Representative Giddings doxxed 19-year-old intern Jane Doe, publicly sharing the survivor’s name and photo with constituents using her state email address and server…This is unacceptable and she must be held accountable.”
The lawsuit further alleges that Giddings repeatedly told Idaho State Police troopers in the statehouse that Doe was “under the influence of drugs” and that she believed Doe violated portions of Idaho law. Giddings sent an official statement to the trooper, and a report was filed. According to the lawsuit, “upon information and belief, other representatives aligned with Giddings and von Ehlinger were taking steps in furtherance of attempting to harass, or cause others to harass, Ms. Doe and to otherwise discourage her from cooperating with the Ethics Committee and with law enforcement.” The complaint claims that Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, attempted to obtain information about Doe’s statements to police, and former Rep. Christy Zito suggested that Doe had made a “false report.”
In May 2021, Giddings was accused of conduct unbecoming for making defamatory statements about Doe. The committee found probable cause of her actions and later censured her. However, the lawsuit alleges that Giddings continued to refer to Doe as “a tramp” and spread malicious statements about her to other legislators.
The lawsuit states that the two former lawmakers’ 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.” The lawsuit seeks punitive damages for the emotional distress and damage to Doe’s reputation caused by the doxxing. She has demanded a jury trial in the matter.
It is worth noting that Doe had previously sued the state, but the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice on Nov. 23, 2022.