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'The citizens of Idaho deserve better:' Ethics committee votes to censure lawmaker who released rape accuser's name

The committee members recommended that Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, be formally censured and stripped of one of her committee assignments.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: The above video is from the Monday, August 2, ethics hearing on this case. 

The House Ethics Committee voted unanimously Tuesday morning to find that an Idaho lawmaker committed "conduct unbecoming a representative" when she published the full name and photo of a legislative intern who reported being raped by another lawmaker. 

The committee members recommended that Rep. Priscilla Giddings, a Republican from White Bird, be formally censured and stripped of her assignment on the House Commerce and Human Resources committee. The recommendation will next go before the full House for a vote.

Several members of the committee noted that while it was not a crime to disseminate the real name of 19-year-old Jane Doe, it was poor judgment, and carries consequences.

"It's not just conduct unbecoming of a legislator, but of everybody," committee chairman Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay) said. "We should expect more of every one of ourselves."

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said that Idaho's whistleblower statute was formulated specifically to protect employees who report wrongdoing. Allowing reprisals against those employees makes it less likely that other people will come forward with complaints - not just about rape or sexual harassment, but issues like embezzlement or other forms of grift, he said. 

Giddings shared an article that contained the teenager's name, picture, and personal details to her Facebook page and sent it out in her official government newsletter after Jane Doe told police that then-Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger had sexually assaulted her in his apartment in March. Von Ehlinger later resigned as the House prepared to take up a vote on whether to expel him. He has not been charged criminally.

Committee members made it clear that they were reacting not just to Giddings' post, but to her dishonesty when testifying about what had happened. In an April ethics hearing for von Ehlinger, Giddings denied sharing the intern's name until another lawmaker pulled up the post on her Facebook during the meeting. 

During her own ethics inquiry Monday, Giddings was frequently combative and indirect, refusing to answer questions and accusing the committee of violating her due process rights and House rules. She skipped the testimony of other lawmakers on Monday and did not appear in person to hear the committee's decision Tuesday. 

Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Wendy Horman said she was troubled by the fact that Giddings had fundraised money for her legal counsel, then ultimately did not retain counsel. The committee member also called out what she described as a "lack of respect and civility" during the process and "a lack of regard for her colleagues." 

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, was even more direct, calling several statements Giddings made during or about the ethics hearings "a bald-faced lie," "patently false," and "an outright lie."

Crane said he had hoped to get a straight answer from Giddings during the hearing and had been disappointed by her refusal to own the decisions she had made. He argued the ethics committee needed to signal that Giddings' behavior was wrong. 

"Current and future legislators will look to the actions of this committee, and I hope our action will serve as a guiding light to what conduct is expected of legislators," he said. "When a legislator repeatedly tells half-truths, outright lies, fails to answer questions or to be honest with the committee, this type of behavior will not be tolerated," he said. "The ethics committee expects better from members of the House of Representatives, and the citizens of Idaho deserve better conduct from their legislators."

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