Hoh fisheries officer sentenced in child rape case, still faces charges in Clallam County

Leader news staff
news@ptleader.com
Posted 11/13/19

A fisheries enforcement officer with the Hoh Tribe was sentenced to a prison term of 12 months and a day on Nov. 8 for the rape of a child in the third degree.

Ernie Penn, 43, of Forks, pleaded …

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Hoh fisheries officer sentenced in child rape case, still faces charges in Clallam County

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A fisheries enforcement officer with the Hoh Tribe was sentenced to a prison term of 12 months and a day on Nov. 8 for the rape of a child in the third degree.

Ernie Penn, 43, of Forks, pleaded guilty to the charge after an investigation found he had had sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old girl who lives in Forks.

“He acknowledges that he made a serious error in judgement,” said Richard Davies, Penn’s defense attorney.

Davies argued that Penn had no prior criminal history, therefore should receive the low end of the sentence, which he was granted by Superior Court Judge Keith Harper. He will also pay $600 in restitution and cannot have any contact with minors besides his own children.

Child rape in the third degree is a class C felony in Washington state that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a $10,000 fine.

Penn was arrested on March 13 and faced charges in both Jefferson and Clallam counties.

The Forks Police Department was first alerted to the allegation he had sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old girl when a man from Moses Lake claiming to be the girl’s boyfriend came to Forks and said he was planning to kill Penn.

“The police became aware that this man was going around town asking where Ernie was and arrested him,” Sheriff Joe Nole said. “That’s where the information came out that Ernie might have had sexual relations with a juvenile.”

Before his arrest multiple agencies investigated for three months. Teaming up with Forks Police Department, Jefferson County detectives Shane Stevenson and Derek Allen spoke with the victim, and found probable cause that Penn allegedly had sexual intercourse with her.

The victim told Stevenson that she and Penn had met following her 15th birthday at the gym in Forks. They had exchanged phone numbers and entered into a secret relationship.

During the investigation, the detectives learned that Penn was commonly armed and that he had made threats to commit suicide rather than go to jail.

“Our investigation led us to believe he was least likely to be armed when he was going to the gym,” Allen said.

On March 13, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office planned a multi-agency operation with Forks Police Department and Clallam County Sheriff’s Office to arrest Penn while he was walking from his car to the gym in the parking lot.

While Penn has since been sentenced in Jefferson County, he still faces charges of rape of a child in the third degree and communication with a minor for immoral purposes in Clallam County. He could face up to 48 months in total.

Penn was transferred to Clallam County Correctional Facilty where his bail is set at $250,000.

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