Kerns to Answer Rape Charges in Common Pleas Court

, The Legal Intelligencer

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Robert Kerns
Robert Kerns

A magisterial district judge has ruled that attorney and former Montgomery County GOP Chairman Robert J. Kerns will have to answer all 19 charges against him, including counts of rape and indecent sexual assault, in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

Chester County Senior Magisterial District Judge Susann Welsh determined at Kerns' preliminary hearing Friday that the 19 charges against him, stemming from the alleged rape of a female employee of his law firm, will stand. An arraignment at the common pleas level is currently set for Jan. 29.

"The commonwealth has shown prima facie evidence on all charges," Welsh concluded.

Two individuals testified at the hearing, Kerns' accuser and police detective Lt. Christopher Kuklentz, the arresting officer. Kerns did not testify nor did he make any comment during the hearing.

Kerns is charged with 19 criminal counts that stem from an alleged incident Oct. 25. They include rape of an unconscious victim, rape of an impaired person, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, possession of a controlled substance, possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver and tampering with/fabricating physical evidence, according to the docket.

Art Heinz, spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, said a request for a senior district judge outside of Montgomery County came to the AOPC from Montgomery County President Judge William J. Furber Jr.'s office Dec. 4 and was approved by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille on Dec. 12.

Heinz said the request from the county "was made in light of the countywide nature of Mr. Kerns' prior position" and that the judge formerly assigned to the hearing, Magisterial District Judge Robert M. Sobeck, recused himself due to a conflict of interest.

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Samantha Louise Root Cauffman handled the prosecution in the case while Kerns was defended by Brian McMonagle of McMonagle, Perri, McHugh & Mischak. McMonagle declined to comment Friday.

During the hearing, the alleged victim testified that Kerns offered her a ride to the King of Prussia Mall after a work-related party at a restaurant. Once in Kerns' car, the woman said, Kerns offered her a drink from a wine bottle in a bag located on the floor, leaning against the console of the vehicle.

The woman said Kerns "asked me if I was happy at the firm and I said I was." She added that Kerns handed her a $100 bill and said the firm was "very happy with her and that if she came back from time to time there would be more where that came from." The woman said that she poured the wine from the bottle into two glasses, drinking from one.

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