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Ex-Kent-Meridian teacher, coach pleads guilty to sex crime

Ernie Ammons. - COURTESY PHOTO
Ernie Ammons.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

A former Kent-Meridian High School teacher and track coach pleaded guilty to communication with a minor for immoral purposes. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 22.

Ernie Ammons, 37, of Black Diamond, had been scheduled to go to trial Feb. 5 but instead entered a guilty plea, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. He is scheduled to be sentenced at 1 p.m. Feb. 22 before King County Superior Court Judge Lori K. Smith at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Ammons could be sentenced up to one year in jail and be fined $5,000. He must register as a sex offender.

In return for a guilty plea, Richard Anderson, senior deputy prosecuting attorney, will recommend to Judge Smith a sentence of 10 days in jail for Ammons and that he pay $500 for victim penalty assessment, a $100 lab fee, a $100 DNA fee and pay restitution for any of the victim's counseling and medical expenses, according to court documents. Anderson also will recommend Ammons be placed on probation for a year.

Ammons, who is free on bail, 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.

Prosecutors said Ammons sent sexually explicit text messages to a 16-year-old girl at Kent-Meridian. 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.

Ammons led the Kent-Meridian boys track team to its first state track title in 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.

The series of text messages were exchanged between Ammons and the girl from June 27 through Nov. 6 in 2011. In an Oct. 13 text message, 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.

Prosecutors charged Daniel Gregory Lum-Lung, who coached girls volleyball at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, with third-degree attempted rape in connection with a 15-year-old girl he met in October 2011 at Kent's Lake Meridian Park. That case is in trial this week before King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas.

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