Judge Refuses To Immediately Drop Rape Charges Against Newport Beach Surgeon, Girlfriend
NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) – A judge Friday requested more evidence before agreeing to dismiss charges against a Newport Beach orthopedic surgeon and his girlfriend who are accused of drugging and sexually assaulting several women.
On Tuesday, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced that his office would request that charges against 39-year-old Grant William Robicheaux and 32-year-old Cerissa Laura Riley be dismissed after a review of the case found a lack of evidence and a mishandling of the case by the previous DA.
However, at a hearing Friday at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, O.C. Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones refused to immediately dismiss the charges. Instead, after hearing statements from two of the alleged victims, Jones said that politics had infected the case and he wanted to review it further before making a determination.
At one point during the hearing, Jones called the mixture of politics and prosecution a "toxic cocktail."
"He (Spitzer) diminished my story in front of a room full of strangers with me on speakerphone, and in effect, told me that it was unclear whether I consented to sex," Jane Doe No. 1 told the judge in her victim statement. "I assure you, Your Honor, that there was nothing unclear about the moment when I was raped."
During the hearing, Jones confirmed with prosecutors that the drug GHB, often known as the "date-rape" drug, was found inside Robicheaux's home.
Jones told both sets of attorneys they can file argument briefs by March 19. Another hearing is set for April 3.
"My heart goes out to Grant and Cerissa," the accused couple's attorney Philip Cohen told reporters after Friday's hearing. "It's waking up on Christmas morning and seeing that the tree is empty."
"Judge Jones made it very clear, 'I don't care about the politics. What's the evidence?'" said Mike Fell, an attorney for one of the alleged victims.
Back in September of 2018, Robicheaux and Riley were charged with 17 counts each, including rape by use of drugs, oral copulation by anesthesia, assault with intent to commit sexual offense and possession of a controlled substance for sale.
At the time, former DA Tony Rackauckas said that Robicheaux and Riley would meet their victims at local bars and restaurants, drug them and then take them home and sexually assault them. Rackauckas claimed investigators had about 1,000 of these videos on the suspects' phones.
However, at a news conference Tuesday, Spitzer said that he assigned new prosecutors to the case after he took office, and their review found no evidence of unconscious women being assaulted.
"There is not a single piece of evidence or video or photo that shows an unconscious or incapacitated woman being sexually assaulted, not one," Spitzer said Tuesday.
Spitzer accused his predecessor, Rackauckas, of possible prosecutorial misconduct: sensationalizing the case and driving it forward as a publicity stunt to further his own re-election efforts.
Spitzer then went on to apologize to the defendants.
"What happened in their lives and how this case materializes is nothing short of a travesty," Spitzer said.
Spitzer, a longtime O.C. Supervisor, ran for and defeated Rackauckas in the DA's race in November of 2018.
In a statement to CBSLA Tuesday, Rackauckas wrote: "It is possible that new evidence was developed and certainly I have dismissed cases and even reversed convictions when I did not have confidence in the evidence. However, considering the complaint contained seven Jane Does, it is too bad the public does not have the chance to explore the truth during a preliminary hearing."
An unusual aspect of the case is how a civil suit filed by an alleged victim created issues in the criminal case. Usually, civil litigation is suspended while a criminal case proceeds, but both the civil suit and criminal case have been proceeding together with one of the defense attorneys conducting depositions in the civil litigation.
Spitzer Tuesday said that when Rackauckas was deposed in that civil case, he admitted that he had used the criminal case to help his re-election effort.
"Did you see this case of a thousand victims, a good-looking doctor, a good-looking girlfriend, as being a potential publicity vehicle for you?" Rackauckas was asked by a defense attorney in his deposition.
"I certainly expected to get in a lot of publicity, yes," he responded.
"And did you think that the publicity may be helpful to your campaign?"
"Yes," Rackauckas responded.
Both Robicheaux and Riley have previously pleaded not guilty to the charges and remain free on bail. Robicheaux was charged in connection with seven victims, while Riley was charged with five.
Robicheaux was featured on Bravo's show "Online Dating Rituals of the American Male" back in 2014.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
for more features.