Former physician assistant sentenced for child porn

West End man gets more than seven years in prison

PORT ANGELES — A former West End physician assistant has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for child pornography.

Thomas Ira Hughes, 62, of Forks apologized to his family and the victims Wednesday before Clallam County Superior Court Judge Simon Barnhart imposed an 87-month sentence as recommended in a plea agreement.

Hughes said he was “ashamed” of his actions.

“First of all, I would like to apologize to my family and to anyone who I may have hurt,” Hughes said.

“I’m very sorry for this,” he added.

“I regret that I have not lived up to expectations I held for myself. I’m trying to find that which I have lost inside of me.”

Hughes had previously pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree possessing depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, two counts of first-degree dealing in depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of second-degree dealing in child porn.

“These weren’t depictions of teenagers,” said Matthew Roberson, Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney.

“They happen to be depictions of infants and toddlers, I think elevating the heinous nature of it.

“While there are no directly identifiable victims, the demand for these materials fuels a worldwide victimization, exploitation of young children,” Roberson added.

Hughes, a Coast Guard veteran who had no criminal history before his 2020 arrest, will be on community supervision for three years after his release.

He will be required to register as a sex offender for life.

“The bottom line is, Mr. Hughes knows what he did was wrong,” said Stan Myers, defense attorney.

“He knows that he’s going to be punished for this, and when he gets out, he’s going to be under a lot of restrictions from the (state) Department of Corrections, which would prevent him from having access to these types of images.”

Hughes, who had worked at the Clallam Bay Medical Clinic, Forks Community Hospital, Bogachiel Clinic and a medical clinic in Ferry County, had his physician assistant license suspended in 2018 for sexual misconduct.

The state Medical Quality Assurance Commission had determined Hughes, while working on the Quileute Tribe’s La Push reservation in 2015, had sought sex from a tribal member in return for opioid medication.

The child porn charges stemmed from a report by a Google official to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on June 15, 2020, according to a State Patrol report.

Google reported that child pornography had been uploaded from Hughes’ account onto the internet.

State Patrol detectives interviewed Hughes on Aug. 27, 2020, and arrested him that day after he admitted to possessing and distributing child pornography and “did not appear to have any remorse,” according to the State Patrol.

Myers took issue with Roberson’s argument at sentencing that Hughes had displayed a lack of remorse.

“He understands that, even though he didn’t physically touch any of these children, that these children were victimized just by the mere fact that images were taken of them and they would have been distributed throughout the internet,” Myers said.

“My client fully appreciates the magnitude of this crime and how wrong it was, so we just completely disagree that he doesn’t have any remorse for this.”

Myers said Hughes’ internet searches had “evolved” from adult pornography to child pornography and “just got out of control.”

“My client not only feels remorseful for the images that he’s downloaded, he also feels very remorseful for the pain that he’s causing his entire family, particularly his wife, because of his bad actions,” Myers said.

The 87-month prison sentence was at the low end of the standard range for Hughes on the two counts of first-degree dealing in depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

In addition to saving costs and eliminating the uncertainties of a trial, Roberson said he negotiated the plea offer to protect the jury and court personnel from having to view the images that Hughes had downloaded.

“It allows us to hold him accountable without having 12 jurors, plus alternates, permanently scar their souls — for a lack of a better term — viewing these materials, and it minimizes these children having to be viewed by more and more adults,” Roberson said.

“I do appreciate that Mr. Hughes did take responsibility and did cooperate with law enforcement,” Roberson added.

“That’s what gets him the low-end recommendation on counts 3 and 4 from the state. I also appreciate the work of the Washington State Patrol and the task force investigating this.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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West End man gets more than seven years in prison