Philadelphia judge to preside at trial of ex-Montco GOP chief

Posted: July 25, 2014

A Philadelphia judge will preside over the case of the former Montgomery County Republican Party leader accused of assaulting a woman who worked at his law firm.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Castille this week approved the appointment of Philadelphia Senior Judge John L. Braxton to handle Robert J. Kerns' case in Montgomery County, Supreme Court spokesman Art Heinz said Wednesday.

Castille is expected to issue an order finalizing the appointment by the end of next week, Heinz said.

The need for a visiting judge arose after the Montgomery County bench recused itself from the trial for Kerns, 67, of North Wales, a longtime political figure.

Montgomery County prosecutors charged him in late 2013, weeks after they said he raped the woman, an employee of his former law firm, following an office party. County authorities withdrew those charges after acknowledging investigators had misread lab results, but the state Attorney General's Office refiled rape and other charges.

Last month, a district judge dismissed the rape and sexual-assault charges and ordered Kerns to trial in Common Pleas Court on other counts, including a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault.

Braxton, who will preside at that trial, is no stranger to handling cases against politically prominent defendants. A longtime Philadelphian, he was called to Chester County for the 2013 trial of former District Judge Rita Arnold, convicted of concealing a citation against her son.

On Wednesday, Braxtton could not be reached for comment.



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