BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho legislator who shared the name, photo, and personal information of a 19-year-old Statehouse intern who told police she had been sexually assaulted by another lawmaker - then lied about it under oath - was formally censured by the Idaho House Monday morning.
The 49-19 vote to adopt the report of the House Ethics Committee and strip Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird) of her assignment on the House Human Resources Committee came after a two-hour debate on the first day of the Legislature's reconvened session.
Members of the bipartisan ethics committee voted unanimously in August to find that Giddings had committed "conduct unbecoming a Representative" when she sent out personal details about the intern, then was untruthful about doing so.
At a previous ethics hearing in April, Giddings denied posting the identifying information to her Facebook page and sending it out to her supporters until a member of the committee pulled up her Facebook page - where the post was still visible - during the meeting.
The ethics committee wrote that Giddings "was evasive, combative and not forthright" in her own ethics hearing, and that her decision to send out the 19-year-old's name could convince other victims of harassment, mistreatment, and assault not to come forward.
During the Monday debate, however, Giddings said that she had done nothing wrong. She argued that she was attempting to support due process and the right to free speech by sharing the intern's identity, and accused the ethics committee of breaking rules and spending too much money on the hearing into whether she had acted inappropriately.
"I would not have done anything differently," Giddings said. "I think my intent was pure."
The intern, who KTVB is identifying only as Jane Doe, told detectives in March that then-Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R-Juliaetta) forced her to perform oral sex on him after the pair went out to dinner, despite her telling him "no" repeatedly. Von Ehlinger was arrested in September and is currently awaiting trial on felony charges of rape and forcible sexual penetration.
Several other lawmakers came to Giddings' defense Monday, including Rep. Tony Wisniewski (R-Post Falls) who argued that if Giddings did not believe what she had said was untruthful then it was not a lie, and Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) who noted that the ethics committee had not proven Giddings' behavior had had a "chilling effect" on any other Statehouse whistleblowers who wanted to report wrongdoing.
Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) pointed to Giddings' staus as a military member, an author and "a true Idahoan gal," telling her fellow lawmakers that they should reject the ethics committee's report.
"There are a lot of people in here I don't respect completely, so I don't see how disrespect is a problem with ethics, and if we start going down this road, I think we are in grave danger," she said.
Not everyone was convinced.
Rep. James Ruchti (D-Pocatello) said that legislators have a duty to themselves and to their constituents to call out bad behavior from their members.
"The good lady from District 7 knew better, she had been taught better and she utterly failed when she made the decision to dox a 19-year-old intern. We have a responsibility here," he said. "It's just wrong. The vast, vast, vast majority of this body did not need to be told that."
Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy (R-Lewiston) agreed, noting that Giddings had testified she had not even read the post about the 19-year-old rape accuser before sharing it.
"We were sent an intern to care for in this body," she said. "And when we are sent young men and women to care for in this body I feel that we have the responsibility to care for them at a higher standard."
Giddings, who is running for Idaho lieutenant governor, remains a member of the Local Government, Resources & Conservation, and State Affairs committees.
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