State revives rape case against ex-Montco GOP chairman

State prosecutors have filed rape charges against former Montgomery County Republican Party chairman Robert Kerns, reviving a case that collapsed when county investigators misread lab test results from the woman who accused him of assaulting her. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer /File)
State prosecutors have filed rape charges against former Montgomery County Republican Party chairman Robert Kerns, reviving a case that collapsed when county investigators misread lab test results from the woman who accused him of assaulting her. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer /File) (Ed Hille)
Posted: April 25, 2014

State prosecutors have filed rape charges against former Montgomery County Republican Party chairman Robert Kerns, reviving a case that collapsed when county investigators misread lab test results from the woman who accused him of assaulting her last fall.

Kerns was arraigned Friday in Montgomery County District Court in front of visiting Judge Joann L. Teyral, who set his bail at $1 million, according to court documents.

"Based on the thorough review of all the facts and evidence obtained during the investigation conducted by the Montgomery County Detective Bureau . . . Robert J. Kerns did engage in sexual intercourse . . .," the attorney general's office wrote in its criminal complaint,

The state announcement came about six weeks after Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman abruptly dropped all 19 charges against Kerns, including felony counts of raping an unconscious victim and raping a substantially impaired person.

The new filing against Kerns contains far fewer charges than the initial case in Montgomery County - seven counts as opposed to 16 - and no mention of the sleep drug Ambien. County prosecutors originally accused Kerns of spiking wine he offered the alleged victim with Ambien before assaulting her.

In the new charges, Kerns faces one felony count of rape of an unconscious or unaware person. Before, he was charged with a second rape count that accused Kerns of "surreptitiously" administering drugs to the alleged victim, court documents show.

He also is not being charged with possessing the sleep drug.

Through his lawyer, Kerns, 66, of North Wales, had previously denied any wrongdoing. The lawyer, Brian McMonagle, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday morning.

The description of events on the evening of Oct. 25 are largely the same as given in the first police complaint against Kerns.

The alleged attack occurred after an office party at a Blue Bell restaurant. At the time, the woman was an employee at the Lansdale law firm where Kerns was a partner.

Ferman acknowledged on March 17 that the charges were being withdrawn because her office had bungled the case by misintepreting lab tests, and accusing Kerns of intentionally drugging the woman with the sleep aid Ambien before assaulting her. The results actually showed she had no Ambien in her system.

Ferman then asked the attorney general's office to review the file and decide if it wanted to file new charges against Kerns.

The Inquirer has not identified the woman, following a policy of not identifying alleged victims of sexual assaults.

Ferman, a Republican, launched an internal review of the case's handling by her detectives and others when the charges were dropped. Ferman on Friday declined to comment on the new charges against Kerns.

She did say that the internal review was continuing, and that in addition to examining problems with the Kerns case, she also was conducting a "total top-to-bottom office review on quality assurance."

The alleged assaults occurred after Kerns and the woman left an October office party at a restaurant in Blue Bell. At the party, according to a court documents released Friday, Kerns allegedly bought the woman several drinks, and then offered to drive her to the nearby King of Prussia Mall, where she wanted to do some shopping after the party. Once in his car, the document says, Kerns gave her more wine and then assaulted her - once in the car and once in her house after he had driven her home.

Kerns' attorney, Brian J. McMonagle, could not be reached for comment.

cdavis@phillynews.com

610-313-8109

@carolyntweets

www.inquirer.com/montcomemo

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