Despite a public request from the county’s top prosecutor, an Orange County judge on Friday deferred a decision on whether to dismiss charges against a doctor and his girlfriend in a sensational sexual assault case.
Judge Gregory Jones said he would take Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer’s recommendation into consideration but would examine the evidence against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley more carefully “so that I can make an intelligent, meaningful” decision.
“Politics have infected this case,” the judge said in court during a morning hearing. “Mixing politics with prosecution gives you a toxic cocktail.”
After the judge’s announcement, Riley leaned against Robicheaux’s shoulder and wept.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled April 3.
Prosecutors had accused the prominent Newport Beach doctor, 39, and his girlfriend, 32, of being sexual predators who lured vulnerable women, drugged them and took them back to their posh home to sexually assault them.
But on Tuesday, Spitzer announced that he planned to drop all charges against the couple. He said Friday that he would be “more than pleased to share the evaluation of the entire case so that Judge Jones can do justice in his decision.”
“Judge Jones has been involved in this case from its inception, and it is completely reasonable that he would want a thorough understanding of the facts,” he said.
Spitzer has accused his predecessor and longtime political foe, Tony Rackauckas, of botching the case and making accusations that could not be proved.
“I didn’t create this situation, but it’s my responsibility to fix it,” Spitzer said at a news conference. “Doing justice is not always pretty, and it’s not pleasant many times. This is not pleasant at all, but these are important decisions that affect people’s lives.”
Rackauckas in a statement defended his handling of the case and suggested the dismissal was a possible “political vendetta against me.”
“Certainly, any prosecutor should think long and hard before dismissing such a case where multiple women have independently come forward and subjected themselves to the hard process of baring their souls to the authorities,” Rackauckas said. “I just hope they’re not being sold down the river for some twisted political motive.”
Philip Cohen, an attorney representing Robicheaux, said earlier this week that the doctor’s and Riley’s lives have been forever altered by the allegations lodged against them.
“I don’t think anyone can truly understand what Grant and Cerissa are going through,” Cohen said. “They’ve gone to bed every night, eaten every meal with the threat of prison hanging over their heads. That has to be an unbelievably devastating way to live.”
Spitzer has invited any of the women who previously accused the couple to meet with him. He also offered a public apology to the women, as well as to Robicheaux and Riley, calling what happened in the case a “travesty.”
Rackauckas said Tuesday in a statement that he too feels for the accusers.
“My heart goes out to the women who had the courage to come forward with their complaint because I believed their complaints based on the evidence I had before leaving office.”
Ahead of Friday’s hearing, Robicheaux and Riley said the last two years have been a nightmare, but they were pleased that the criminal charges could soon be behind them.
“I’m still in shock. I still can’t believe this has happened to us,” Robicheaux told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview.
Robicheaux said that he and his girlfriend have faced death threats since the charges were filed in 2018, adding that he worried about being attacked when he was out walking his dog.
He continued to deny any of the charges made against him. “Never, never, never. Not even close. Consenting adults that were having a great time,” he told ABC. “An unconscious woman is not very fun to have a party with.”
Riley said she was also stunned by the turn of events.
“I feel like I finally woke up from a bad nightmare and feel like I can breathe again,” she told “Good Morning America.”
Times staff writer Hannah Fry contributed to this report.