Idaho lawmaker defends sharing identity of rape accuser on social media and in newsletter

Idaho state Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R). AP Photo/Kimberlee Kruesi, File

Idaho state Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R) told the legislature’s ethics committee on Monday that she doesn’t think she was wrong to share an article on social media and in a newsletter to constituents that named a young woman who accused a lawmaker of rape.

After the young woman, an intern at the statehouse, made the rape allegation against former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R), the ethics committee found he engaged in “conduct unbecoming” a lawmaker. Von Ehlinger, who said he had consensual sex with the intern, resigned. The allegation was made public in April, and not long after Giddings posted and shared an article from a right-wing website that included the accuser’s name, photo, and details about her personal life, The Associated Press reports. The woman said after her identity was revealed, strangers started harassing her.

Two dozen Democratic and Republican lawmakers filed two ethics complaints against Giddings, and the ethics committee found there was probable cause she engaged in “conduct unbecoming a representative, which is detrimental to the integrity of the House as a legislative body.” During the hearing on Monday, Giddings, who is running for lieutenant governor, argued she was protected under the federal First Amendment right to free speech, and claimed the bipartisan ethics complaints were politically motivated.

When asked if she thought the woman was entitled to privacy under Idaho’s crime victim laws, Giddings responded, “You’re way out of the park right now because there is no victim, so that doesn’t apply at all.” Giddings had several supporters in the audience during the hearing, including militia members and people involved with an anti-vaccination organization, AP reports.

Lawmakers who signed the ethics complaint spoke on Monday, including state Rep. Brooke Green (D), who said it is up to lawmakers to ensure that sexual assault victims can have their right to privacy, and state Rep. Julie Yamamoto (R), who stated that “you can do whatever you want, you can say whatever you want, but you need to be willing to accept the consequences.” On Tuesday, ethics committee members are expected to decide whether to recommend the House censure, reprimand, or expel Giddings.

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