Judge Set To Determine Whether Charges Move Forward Against Newport Beach Surgeon, Girlfriend In Contentious Sexual Assault Case
SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – An Orange County Superior Court judge could decide Friday whether to grant a request by prosecutors to drop multiple charges against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend who have been accused of drugging and raping several women.
Last month, the California Attorney General's Office asked a judge to drop six of the seven purported victims from the case, but still try the couple on charges involving just one alleged victim.
Dr. Grant Robicheaux, 40 had originally been charged in connection with seven victims, while 34-year-old Cerissa Laura Riley had been charged in connection with five.
The Attorney General's Office took over prosecution of the case from the O.C. District Attorney's Office in July of 2020.
At a May 14 hearing, Bromberg asked the state prosecutors to provide more information to him about how they arrived at that decision. Bromberg questioned Deputy Attorney General Yvette Martinez about the rationale in wanting to dismiss most of the drugging and rape charges and reduce felony drug counts to misdemeanor possession.
The case would boil down to assault with the intent to commit a sex offense against one of the seven charged victims, but it would include charges of tainting food or drink and an allegation of "administering stupefying drugs with the intent to commit rape by intoxication" without a rape charge.
Martinez said it wasn't a question of whether her team believes the accusers, but rather it comes down to a determination that they believe they do not have enough evidence to prove their case.
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, then-Orange County District Attorney 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, in February of 2020, new O.C. DA Todd Spitzer held a shocking news conference in which he said that he had assigned new prosecutors to the case after he took office, and their review found no evidence of unconscious women being assaulted.
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, a longtime O.C. Supervisor, defeated Rackauckas in the DA's race in November of 2018.
Spitzer announced that his office would request that charges against Robicheaux and 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, after considering Spitzer's request, in June of 2020 OC Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones announced that he would not dismiss the charges. The following month, Spitzer's office was removed from the case and replaced by the California AG.
Both Robicheaux and Riley have previously pleaded not guilty to the charges and remain free on bail.
Robicheaux was featured on Bravo's show "Online Dating Rituals of the American Male" back in 2014.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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