COURTHOUSE — The former head of the Montgomery County Republican Party pleaded not guilty to the standing assault charges against him by waiving his formal arraignment, according to online court documents.
The documents state that Robert Kerns, 66, of North Wales, was scheduled to be arraigned on July 30. Kerns’ attorney, Brian McMonagle, waived the arraignment when he entered his appearance as Kerns’ attorney in Montgomery County court on June 26.
By waiving his arraignment Kerns has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. When Kerns was first charged by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office he also waived his arraignment and pleaded not guilty charges of rape, aggravated assault and other related charges.
At his preliminary hearing on June 18, District Judge Jo Ann L. Teyral, a retired district judge from York County, dismissed the two lead charges against Kerns: rape and sexual assault. A previous report in The Reporter, a sister paper of The Phoenix Reporter & Item, states that Teyral reviewed the transcript from the alleged victim’s testimony from the first preliminary hearing and spoke to McMonagle and Deputy District Attorney General Daniel Dye before announcing her decision.
Now Kerns faces two counts of aggravated indecent assault without consent, two counts of indecent assault without consent, one count of indecent assault of an unconscious person and one count of simple assault.
At the time, Dye said Teyral’s decision to withdraw the rape and sexual assault charges does not impact the Office of the Attorney General’s prosecution at all and that it allows the Attorney General’s Office to proceed to court with the strongest charges.
Kerns is accused of taking advantage of a former employee at his law firm after a work party in October 2013. He was first arrested by Montgomery County Detectives in November, 2013. When he was first arrested he was accused of drugging the alleged victim before raping her.
In March the District Attorney’s office announced in court in front of senior Chester County Judge Thomas Gavin they would be withdrawing the charges without prejudice which means they were able to be filed again.
The charges were withdrawn after McMonagle had two experts analyze the lab report which indicated the alleged victim was drugged before she was raped. The experts found an error in the way the report was read. He explained in March that after the preliminary hearing, he retained two toxicologists. He said the first toxicologist looked at the toxicology report and found no Ambien or any other drugs in the urine samples. McMonagle said the second toxicologist later confirmed the findings of the first.
According to the Commonwealth’s petition for Nolle Prosequi — the paperwork used when the district attorney’s office is dropping criminal charges against a defendant — the lab report from Quest Diagnostics had “Zolpidem” (more commonly known as Ambien) as “<5,” or less than five. The less than five was read as more than zero by prosecutors.
Quest Diagnostics is not the lab the county usually goes to for testing.
At the time, District Attorney Risa Ferman said the way the report was written was likely to lead someone to believe that there was a positive trace of the drug in the alleged victim’s system, when in fact, there was not. She said Dr. Robert Middleburg, the director of National Medical Services, said the report would have been easy to misread.