SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – In the latest chapter in an ongoing sexual assault case which has seen a series of twists and turns, an Orange County Superior Court judge Thursday approved a request to reduce the charges against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend.
Dr. Grant Robicheaux, 40, and Cerissa Riley, 34, will now face sexual assault charges involving two of the alleged victims. The charges had initially involved five victims. However, there are a total of 13 accusers, some of whom could be used by prosecutors as further evidence of a pattern of behavior.
The case was reassigned to the California Attorney General's Office last year after O.C. Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones refused District Attorney Todd Spitzer's request to dismiss the case outright. He cited the politics interjected into the case in a tense election between Spitzer and his predecessor, Tony Rackauckas.
In a daylong hearing last Thursday, Judge Frank Ospino heard arguments from attorneys for the alleged victims and defendants, as well as the prosecutors.
One alleged victim told Ospino she was "exhausted" by the twists and turns in the case over the past three years, including the recent surprise decision by Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg to recuse himself from the case.
"This case is a complete travesty," the woman told Ospino.
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.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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