An Idaho lawmaker who shared the personal information of a 19-year-old college student online after the teen accused another legislator of rape was formally censored Monday by the Idaho House of Representatives.
The representative, Priscilla Giddings, a Republican from White Bird, Idaho, was stripped of a committee assignment for sharing an article containing the intern’s personal information on Facebook and in a newsletter with her supporters.
Ms. Giddings, who is seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, shared the information after the intern accused State Representative Aaron von Ehlinger of sexual assault in March.
Mr von Ehlinger, 39, who resigned in April, has denied any allegation. He pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault this month and is scheduled to be released in April 2022.
Sharing someone’s information online without their consent, a practice called doxxing, has often been used against women who speak out about sexual abuse. In May, Colorado made it illegal to share the personal information of health professionals and their families online for the purpose of harassment.
During a two-hour debate at the Idaho Statehouse on Monday, Ms. Giddings said she had done nothing wrong. “I wouldn’t have done anything else,” she said. “I think my intention was pure.”
There was loud clapping and cheering from the public gallery after she spoke.
In an email, Ms. Giddings did not immediately comment on the disapproval. She criticized Rep. Scott Bedke, the Speaker of the House, the legislature who oversaw the hearing and her opponent in the Lieutenant Governor’s primaries. “Stopping this kind of unabashed corruption is exactly why I’m in the legislature, and it’s exactly why I’m active,” she said.
Erika Birch, a lawyer for the intern, said her client watched the debate and was hurt by Ms. Giddings’ comments and by the other House members voting against censure, in part because the internship was an opportunity for her to teach those same people. .
Ms Birch described Ms Giddings as “kicking someone while they are downstairs and then refusing to take any responsibility for her action.”
In September, the former intern and her attorneys filed a tort claim against the Idaho legislature, saying the intern, dubbed Jane Doe, feared for the safety of her and her family.
“Ma’am. Suffer and still suffer from extreme emotional stress, including suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and panic attacks,” the claim reads.
The intern, who had worked for another House Republican, told the ethics committee in March that Mr. von Ehlinger had sexually assaulted her after they dined at a restaurant in Boise, Idaho, that month. Instead of taking her back to her car, Mr. von Ehlinger drove her to his apartment and raped her, she testified.
After the intern filed a police report, Ms. Giddings shared a blog post on her Facebook page and in her newsletter that included a photo of the intern, her full name, and other identifying information. She also belittled the woman on the posts.
In April, Mrs. Giddings shared the information at a meeting of the ethics committee. During the meeting, a member of the Legislators’ Committee revealed that the post was still on the representative’s Facebook page.
The bipartisan House Ethics and Policy Committee unanimously found in August that Ms. Giddings engaged in “behavior not befitting a representative”.
On Monday, the House voted to formally censor Giddings in a vote of 49 to 19, also removing her from her role on the Commerce and Human Resources Committee. She will retain other committee duties. House members who voted for censure said they did so in part because Ms. Giddings at one point lied about sharing the intern’s personal information while she was under oath.
Several Republican lawmakers defended Giddings during a two-hour debate Monday.
Representative Heather Scott, a Republican from Blanchard, spoke about Ms. Giddings and how it contrasted with the behavior described by the Ethics Committee.
“Do you really know what she did wrong to punish her?” said Mrs. Scott.
Towards the end of the debate, after Ms. Giddings spoke, several other Republicans voted in favor of the disapproval.
Representative Caroline Nilsson Troy, a Republican from Genesee, said she voted for the sentence because House members had a responsibility to care for interns.
“When we are sent young men and women of this state to care for in this body,” said Ms Nilsson Troy, “I feel we have a responsibility to care for them to a higher standard – that standard that we set ourselves.” expect as representatives.”