Tribal officer pleads guilty to third-degree child rape

Also charged in Clallam County

PORT TOWNSEND — A Hoh tribal officer has pleaded guilty to third-degree child rape in Jefferson County Superior Court and faces charges in Clallam County.

Ernest Allen Penn, 43, a fisheries enforcement officer, pleaded guilty to the Class C felony on Friday morning and is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 16 by Judge Keith Harper. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Penn continues to be held at the Jefferson County Jail on $300,060 bail.

Penn also is charged in Clallam County with five counts of third-degree rape of a child and one count of communication with a minor for immoral purposes. He has not appeared in Clallam County Superior Court.

The charges stem from a 2017 relationship Penn had with a girl who was 15 at the time.

The two met at a gym and exchanged numbers so they could go hunting south of Forks in Jefferson County, according to court records.

The first encounter occurred during a hunting trip, and it became more regular for them to meet outside of Penn’s home after that, documents stated.

Penn later moved out of that home, where a woman and his children lived, records state.

Text messages showed Penn communicated with the girl while he was on duty as a Hoh Tribal Officer. The messages described the type of work he was doing, according to court records.

The girl eventually distanced herself from Penn, telling investigators she wanted to focus on school and sports and not worry about getting caught.

She said Penn had threatened to kill himself rather than be arrested or if she left him.

A multi-agency task force took Penn into custody outside of a gym in March.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].