Monday, July 28, 2014
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Former Montco GOP Chair arrested, charged with rape

The ex-chair of the Montgomery County GOP committee was arrested yesterday and charged with drugging and raping a woman who worked in his law office, after a company party in King of Prussia last month.

Former Montco GOP Chair arrested, charged with rape

Robert Kerns. (Source: www.kernslaw.com)
Robert Kerns. (Source: www.kernslaw.com)

The ex-chair of the Montgomery County GOP committee was arrested yesterday and charged with drugging and raping a woman who worked in his law office, after a company party in King of Prussia last month.

Plied with wine and doped with a sleeping pill, the woman later told a grand jury that former Montgomery County Republican Committee Chair Robert J. Kerns drugged, raped and assaulted her while she was unconscious.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman yesterday announced the results of a two-week-long grand jury investigation into Kerns, after allegations surfaced he had assaulted a woman the night of Oct. 25.

According to court documents, Kerns is charged with a total of 19 counts, including charges of rape of an unconscious victim, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault of an unconscious person unaware that penetration is occurring, possessing drugs and an instrument of crime, lying to authorities and evidence tampering.

The grand jury report, released yesterday during a DA news conference, describes the victim as a 51-year old, 5’1’’ female, who worked part-time as a paralegal at Kerns’ North Wales law firm. It chronicles the events of that night in explicit detail, characterizing Kerns as having used “brute force” during the alleged attacks, which reportedly occurred both in his car and in the victim’s home, after the party.

Prosecutors said the woman went to police six days after the assault, when physical injuries were still visible on her body.

“I give great credit to the victim in this case. She was extremely courageous in coming forward and sharing what happened to her and I think that she should be commended,” said Ferman.

The grand jury’s presentment describes Kerns’ actions as “manipulative and predatory,” but defense attorney Brian McMonagle said his client vehemently denies the allegations.

“Anyone who knows Bob Kerns knows that he’s incapable of committing such crimes, and we look forward to successfully defending this case and restoring his good name,” said McMonagle.

According to the grand jury report, Kerns offered the woman a ride home after a law firm party at the Radice Restaurant in Blue Bell, where employees were celebrating the recent passing of the Pennsylvania Bar Exam by one of their newest attorneys.

The victim told police she had one and a half glasses of wine and a couple shots of Limoncello at the event. Afterwards, Kerns reportedly bought a $68 screw-top bottle of chardonnay from the restaurant and was handed two wine glasses. That’s when he allegedly dissolved the sleep drug Ambien into the bottle and encouraged the victim to drink from it when they got in his car.

While driving her home, the woman told police Kerns asked her how she liked working at the law firm. When she said she liked her job but missed the full-time income, Kerns reportedly tossed a $100 bill at her and said, “there is more from where that came from.”

“At some point between the time she drank the wine provided by Kerns and lost consciousness and the time she regained her memory as they entered her neighborhood, the victim has a vague memory of her head up against the car window and pushing Kerns away,” the report reads.

She said it’s foggy, but the pair went back to the victim’s empty house, where she claims Kerns assaulted her a second time. Her husband was out of town on business at the time.

The grand jury also found that when Kerns and the victim entered the woman’s home, she went to the bathroom, emerged and collapsed onto her bed “like a wet noodle.” She claims she vaguely remembered Kerns fondling her in bed and moaning. She told police she awoke the next day bewildered, injured, covered in vomit and naked from the waist down.

Noticing red marks, bruising and scratches on her inner and outer thighs and vaginal injuries that lasted the weekend, the woman resigned from her job that Monday and called police.

According to the grand jury findings, asked why she waited several days before reporting the incident to police, she “was processing the shock over the weekend … I guess I was very concerned with Bob’s status and how I believe he will drag my name through the mud to make me look bad and protect his reputation.”

When police executed a search warrant of Kerns’ 2011 black Mercedes Benz S550 in the days that followed, they found traces of evidence that corroborated the victim’s story. Under the flooring of the trunk of the car, police recovered pink duct tape, an open bottle of Grey Goose vodka, lip balm and K-Y warming jelly.

A urine sample taken from the victim tested positive for Ambien, the prescription sedative commonly used to treat insomnia. It’s not the first time Montgomery County prosecutors encountered Ambien in context to sedate someone. The drug was also found in the blood of Main Line murder victim Stefanie Rabinowitz, whose husband, Craig, is serving a life sentence for strangling her in 1997.

Detectives also reportedly recovered Kerns’ DNA from the woman’s underwear.

“The grand jury finds probable cause to believe that Robert Kerns plotted and planned to drug the victim to render her unconscious so that he would be capable of sexually assaulting her without her knowledge and regardless of her will,” the presentment reads.

“Kerns believed he could take any sex act he wanted from his victim, without her consent, and she would never remember the details. We believe his expectation was that she would never know what happened after being drugged and therefore never make a report to the police.”

Yesterday’s charges follow weeks of speculation and rumors surrounding Kerns and news of his resignation as MCRC chair.

The alleged incident occurred the very night after Kerns attended a highly publicized county dinner, where he and other GOP heavyweights proudly announced a truce and unified front, ending a decades-long icy relationship between party leaders.

Kerns, 66, is married with three adult children. He had served as chairman of the MCRC since 2008.

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Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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Sean Collins Walsh is from Bucks County and went to Northwestern University. He joined the Daily News copy desk in 2012 and now covers the Nutter administration. Before that, he interned at papers including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times. E-mail tips to walshSE@phillynews.com
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