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Former Idaho legislator’s attorney: von Ehlinger was on vacation in Central America, not on the run

Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R, Lewiston)
Otto Kitsinger
In this file photo, Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, attends the legislative session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Aaron von Ehlinger remains in Georgia jail while prosecutors determine next steps

The attorney for former Idaho House Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, Jon Cox, says his client was not trying to evade law enforcement when he was arrested in Georgia last week. Von Ehlinger was on a pre-planned vacation in Central America when the warrant was issued, and had been there since May, according to Cox.

Von Ehlinger, 39, was arrested in Clayton County, Georgia, on Friday and charged as a fugitive from justice. According to online court records, he has been held in the Clayton County Jail after being denied bond by a judge on Monday.

The Lewiston Tribune first reported a warrant for von Ehlinger’s arrest was issued by the Ada County District Court on Sept. 9, following an investigation by the Boise Police Department.

Von Ehlinger, who represented Lewiston in the Idaho Legislature, resigned his seat at the end of April following an ethics hearing in the Idaho House of Representatives over his conduct as a legislator. A 19-year-old intern on the legislative staff said von Ehlinger raped her by forcing her to perform oral sex. Two other female legislative staffers said von Ehlinger made them uncomfortable with unwanted advances.

Von Ehlinger has denied the accusation of rape, saying the sexual activity was consensual.

Cox held a press conference in his downtown Boise office on Wednesday at von Ehlinger’s request.

“He asked me because he’s been speaking with family and he understands from social media or media outlets that there’s this perception he was on the run, trying to hide,” Cox said. “That’s absolutely not true.”

Cox said von Ehlinger contacted him a few days after the warrant was issued to ask him for representation because the attorney he had at the time did not specialize in cases of this nature. Cox knew von Ehlinger was out of the country, but since the warrant issued for his arrest did not involve bail, he didn’t think von Ehlinger’s planned return date of Sept. 24 would make a difference in the case.

“Our thought was, it took six months for this investigation to happen … what’s two more weeks in order to get him back?” Cox said.

The Ada County Prosecutor’s Office is trying to get in touch with the Clayton County Prosecutor’s Office to make sure there are no other outstanding holds on von Ehlinger before arranging for his travel back to Idaho, Cox said. To Cox’s knowledge, there are no other holds.

The state of Idaho has 30 days to arrange for von Ehlinger to either be flown back to Idaho or transported by vehicle, which Cox said will take much longer and at greater expense.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.