PORT ANGELES — A 27-year-old Port Angeles man was convicted of third-degree child rape last week in the first jury trial with COVID-19 precautions in Clallam County Superior Court.
Tucker S. Kahler was found guilty on one count of third-degree child rape and not guilty on one count of second-degree rape. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 3.
The four-day trial was the first jury trial in Superior Court since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the North Olympic Peninsula.
“It went relatively smoothly considering all the new protocols we were dealing with,” said Sarah Woolman, the Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney who handled the case.
“There really weren’t too many hiccups. Small things here and there, but it was nice to have a decent number of jurors show up.”
About 50 prospective jurors answered their jury summons’ despite having more lenient deferrals for COVID-19.
Jurors were spread out and used a separate courtroom as a jury room to maintain physical distancing.
Courtrooms have been reconfigured with Plexiglas between the defense and prosecution tables and between the witness stand and the judge’s and clerk’s stations.
“We all wore masks, and then the witnesses would wear masks until they were testifying because of the right of confrontation,” Woolman said.
“The jury needs to be able to see someone’s face when they’re testifying to assess their testimony, so the witnesses did have to remove their masks when they testified.”
Defense attorney Stan Myers, who represented Kahler at trial, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank advised Superior Court officials on infection control measures at trial, Woolman said.
Port Angeles police said that Kahler raped a 14-year-old girl on July 21, 2019 on Ediz Hook. He had met the child at the Sequim Walmart earlier that day, court papers said.
Kahler provided the victim with two alcoholic beverages and raped her in his station wagon, Port Angeles Police Detective David Arand said in the affidavit for probable cause.
The girl’s grandmother reported the rape in August 2019.
The nine-women, three-man jury that reached its verdict Aug. 6. Kahler and the victim each testified at trial.
Woolman said the jury followed the judge’s instructions.
“I always go in presenting the best case I can in making the arguments, and it really is up to the jury in terms of working through the instructions and what was presented,” Woolman said in a telephone interview.
“It would appear to me that they took the job seriously and they followed the instructions and they did what they were supposed to do.”
Kahler is facing another trial in Superior Court on the week of Aug. 24. He was charged in August 2019 with one count of failure to register as a sex offender.
Kahler has prior convictions of first-degree child molestation, violation of a restraining order and failure to register as a sex offender, Arand said in count papers.
A pre-sentencing investigation will be completed by the state Department of Corrections before Kahler is sentenced on the child rape conviction.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected]