PORT ANGELES — Tucker S. Kahler has been sentenced to four years in prison for the third-degree rape of a 14-year-old girl.
Kahler, 27, of Port Angeles was sentenced Thursday on one count of third-degree rape of a child. The sentence was at the high end of the 36- to 48-month standard sentencing range.
Kahler was acquitted on a second charge of second-degree rape last month in the first jury trial in Clallam County Superior Court with COVID-19 precautions.
Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson imposed the four-year sentence Thursday as recommended by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sarah Woolman, the state’s trial lawyer.
“I believe the high end of the range is warranted here, not because there was an allegation of rape 2, but because I think this was predatory behavior, and that concerns me,” Erickson said at the hearing.
Kahler is a registered sex offender who was convicted as a juvenile in 2010 on one count of first-degree child molestation. The victim in that case was a 7-year-old boy who was known to Kahler, Woolman said.
“The state has significant concern because this is a completely different type of victim profile,” Woolman said.
“Here we have a 14-year-old female completely unknown to the defendant before the offense.”
Port Angeles police said Kahler met the child at the Sequim Walmart on July 21, 2019, and raped her that evening in his vehicle on Ediz Hook.
Police said Kahler provided the teen with two White Claw alcoholic beverages before the rape.
Kahler has maintained his innocence and plans to appeal, defense attorney Stan Myers said.
Kahler did not provide a statement to the court Thursday at Myers’ behest.
“He still maintains that she represented herself as 18 years old,” Myers told Erickson.
“Even so, my client knows that he could have and should have behaved differently in this case.”
Myers asked Erickson to impose a low-end or medium-range sentence for his client.
“The jury found that he did not force her to have sex with him,” Myers said in response to Woolman’s sentencing recommendations.
“And so the rape of a child in the third degree is ostensibly a strict liability case. He admitted that he had sex with her, and it was later found out that she was 14 at the time.”
The victim testified at trial. Her grandfather provided a victim impact statement to the court.
“This has been the worst episode in our lives,” he said.
“No matter what kind of sentence he receives, it will not last as long as our nightmares and memories of this situation and the effect that it has and will continue to have on our and (the victim’s) life.”
Kahler received sex offender treatment as part of his child molestation conviction, Woolman said.
He has another trial scheduled for Sept. 28 on a 2019 failure to register as a sex offender case, court papers show.
“The state appreciates the judge agreeing with our recommendation for the high end of the range,” Woolman said after the hearing Thursday.
“We believe it is the proper result given the circumstances of this case and the fact that Mr. Kahler is a repeat offender.
“It is the policy of the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to aggressively prosecute persons who commit crimes against children,” Woolman added.
“They are always difficult cases because we have to ask so much from the child and his or her family throughout the trial process in order to achieve a just result.”
At trial, the jury and other court participants wore masks — except when testifying — and abided by other COVID-19 infection control measures as recommended by county health officials, Woolman has said.
Myers said he and Woolman worked together to ensure that the first jury trial of the COVID-19 era ran smoothly.
“We were able to agree on virtually everything prior to the trial, and I attribute that to her professionalism,” Myers said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.