Ex-Kent-Meridian teacher, coach receives five-day jail sentence for sex crime
By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
February 22, 2013 · Updated 5:32 PM
A former Kent-Meridian High School teacher and track coach received a five-day jail sentence Friday in King County Superior Court for communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
After the sentencing at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, King County corrections officers handcuffed Ernie Ammons, 37, of Black Diamond, and escorted him out of the courtroom and to the county jail. Ammons had been free on bail since his arrest in December 2011.
Judge Lori K. Smith also sentenced Ammons to 40 hours of community service and 24 months of probation as well as ordered that he have no contact with the victim, that he must pay restitution to the victim and that he have no contact with minors except under supervision of an adult with knowledge of his registered sex offender status and with the approval of a sex offender treatment provider.
Ammons pleaded guilty to the charge Feb. 1 in exchange for a lighter sentence. He could have been sentenced up to one year in jail and fined $5,000. He must register as a sex offender.
"It's been a very trying year for me and my family," Ammons said in a brief statement to the judge. "I take responsibility for my actions. I will move forward from this. I apologize to everybody I respect, especially my family and the victim."
Prosecutors said Ammons sent sexually explicit text messages to a 16-year-old Kent-Meridian girl from June 27, 2011 to Nov. 6, 2011. Ammons taught health and physical education at the school. He also coached boys and girls track and cross country for the Royals.
The Kent School District placed Ammons on paid administrative leave in November 2011 when the allegations first came to the district's attention. He resigned from the district in January 2012. He initially pleaded not guilty to the charge in December 2011.
"Mr. Ammons lost a lot here," defense attorney Brad Meryhew said to the judge. "In the process he never made any excuses, never tried to blame anybody else - always taking responsibility."
Ammons met with a psychologist last fall to figure out a treatment plan and will participate in a sex offender treatment program with a mental health counselor in Pierce County.
"I think the next phase for him is to find a way to reach out and get support - and group (meetings) is a great way to do that - you meet a lot of other people to get that kind of support," Meryhew said. "I'm confident that Ernie will recover from this and live a good life."
Smith said she received several letters in support of Ammons.
"The court is going to follow the agreed recommendation, given all of the circumstances it seems appropriate," Smith said. "The court is hopeful that the treatment will continue and recommendations will be followed."
Smith ordered a sentence of 12 months of supervised probation and 12 months unsupervised if Ammons meets the sex offender treatment plan.
Ammons signed the following guilty statement on Feb. 1:
"On or about a time between June 27, 2011 and Nov. 6, 2011 in King County, I did communicate with (the 16-year-old girl), a person I believed to be a minor, for immoral purposes of a sexual nature," Ammons wrote in a court statement.
Ammons led the Kent-Meridian boys track team to its first state track title in spring 2011 when the Royals captured the Class 4A meet. He coached track and field at Kent-Meridian for eight years. He led the boys track team to a second-place trophy at state in 2009.
Ammons taught health and physical education at Kent-Meridian. His classes in 2011 included health and weight training. The district hired Ammons in 2004.
During a series of text messages with the girl, Ammons asked the girl to meet him for sex in the school's weight room before school.
The case came to the attention of school officials in early November 2011 when a student at another school who knew the 16-year-old girl contacted Kent-Meridian Principal Wade Barringer about inappropriate conversations between a health teacher at the school and a student. The teacher was later identified as Ammons.
Barringer talked to Ammons about the allegations, according to court documents. Ammons told Barringer the phone contacts with the student started on Facebook and the contact continued via text messaging.
Ammons told Barringer that he had exchanged text messages with the girl and they talked about exchanging money for sex. Ammons said he never intended to act on the suggestion, but he was afraid to stop texting the girl out of fear that she would expose him.
School officials contacted Kent Police Nov. 8, 2011 about the allegations and the police investigation started. Detectives gathered cellphone records and emails that showed Ammons had contacted the girl. Detectives found as many as 46 calls between the girl's phone and Ammons' phone from June 27 to Oct. 24. Several more text exchanges occurred after Oct. 24.
Ammons has volunteered as an assistant Green River Community College men's and women's cross country and track coach in Auburn since 2009.
Ammons was the second South Puget Sound League coach charged with a sex crime by county prosecutors in November 2011.
A jury found Daniel Gregory Lum-Lung, who coached girls volleyball at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, guilty of third-degree attempted rape of a child and communication with a minor for immoral purposes in connection with a 15-year-old girl he met in October 2011 at Kent's Lake Meridian Park. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, March 1 before King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas.Contact Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter Steve Hunter at email@example.com or 253-872-6600, ext. 5052.