Plea set in case of lewd images

Medical worker awaiting prison sentence

PORT ANGELES — A former Forks physician assistant who worked throughout the West End in the medical field is slated to plead guilty to child pornography charges July 21 after the State Patrol found additional instances of him transmitting explicit images and a video on the anonymous TextNow app.

Matthew Roberson, Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney, filed an amended criminal information Wednesday in Superior Court, charging Thomas I. Hughes, 62, with one count of first-degree possession of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and three counts of dealing in depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct — two in the first degree and one in the second degree.

“There were a few pornographic images involving children that the defendant sent to someone else on a random chat, TextNow, and also a video sent from the defendant to someone else,” Roberson said.

Judge Simon Barnhart on Wednesday set a sentencing hearing for 9 a.m. next Wednesday.

Port Angeles lawyer Stan Myers, representing Hughes, said Wednesday that he and Roberson have agreed on a sentencing recommendation of 7¼ years. The maximum recommended sentence is 9.7 years, Myers said.

He estimated a presentence report would take six to eight weeks.

Hughes, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard in 2009-10, had been scheduled to enter a change of plea Wednesday to six first-degree child pornography possession charges and a charge of second-degree dealing in child pornography filed against him Sept. 1.

Roberson said the State Patrol investigation continued after the original charges were filed, resulting in the amended information.

Hughes’ offender score on the original seven charges could have landed him in prison for 6.4 years, Roberson said.

The original charges grew out of a report by a Google official to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on June 15, 2020, according to the State Patrol report.

Google reported that child pornography was being uploaded from Hughes’ account onto the internet.

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

Hughes’ tablet contained images of minors from infants to about 12 years old, according to the report.

Roberson said the newer charges were based on images and a video found on the same device.

It includes an explicit chat in which Hughes describes himself as a retired medical officer to a person who says she is a female preschool teacher, he said.

Hughes, who does not have a criminal history, has been out of jail on $30,000 bail since three days after his arrest and is on electronic home monitoring.

Hughes’ physicians assistant license was suspended for five years 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.

He also was sanctioned in 2015 for overprescribing medications.

Hughes worked at the Clallam Bay Medical Clinic, Forks Community Hospital, the hospital’s Bogachiel Clinic and at the Republic Medical Clinic in Ferry County.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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