State revives rape case against ex-Montco GOP chairman

Robert J. Kerns, ex-GOP chairman.
Robert J. Kerns, ex-GOP chairman.
Posted: April 27, 2014

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

Kerns surrendered Friday morning and was arraigned in a district court before a visiting judge, Joann L. Teyral, according to Daniel Dye, the deputy attorney general handling the case.

Kerns' bail terms were the same as in the county case, and he was again released after posting a portion of the $1 million bail, Dye said. His preliminary hearing was set for May 13.

"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 District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman abruptly dropped all 19 charges against Kerns, including two felony counts of rape.

The new filing against Kerns contains eight counts and no mention of the sleep aid Ambien. County prosecutors originally accused him of spiking with Ambien wine he offered the alleged victim 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 him of "surreptitiously" administering drugs to the alleged victim, court documents show.

He has not been charged with possessing the sleep drug.

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

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

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.

At the party, according to court documents released Friday, Kerns allegedly bought the woman several drinks, then offered to drive her to the King of Prussia mall, where she wanted to do some shopping. Once she was 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.

"We handled this as we would any investigation of a serious nature," Dye said.

Ferman acknowledged March 17 the charges were being withdrawn because her office had bungled the case by misinterpreting lab tests and accusing Kerns of drugging the woman with Ambien before assaulting her.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

Ferman then asked the Attorney General's Office to review the case and decide whether to file new charges.

The Inquirer does not identify victims of alleged sexual assaults.

Ferman, a Republican, launched an internal review of the handling of the case by her detectives and others when the charges were dropped. On Friday, she 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 was conducting a "total top-to-bottom office review on quality assurance."


cdavis@phillynews.com610-313-8109 @carolyntweets www.inquirer.com/montcomemo

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