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Prosecutors ready to focus rape case against Orange County doctor, girlfriend around 2 women

Grant Robicheaux and girlfriend Cerissa Riley
Grant Robicheaux and girlfriend Cerissa Riley are shown outside an Orange County courthouse in 2018.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

State prosecutors told an Orange County Superior Court judge on Friday that they plan to move forward with a case against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend, centering it on sexual assault allegations lodged by two women.

Prosecutors from the attorney general’s office announced in May that they wanted to focus the case on just one woman. At the time, they said they didn’t have enough evidence to prove allegations beyond a reasonable doubt related to the other women who have accused the couple of drugging and raping them.

However, prosecutors told Judge Frank Ospino on Friday that they now intend to move forward with two of the original seven women whom Grant Robicheaux, 40, was accused of sexually assaulting. Robicheaux’s girlfriend, Cerissa Riley, 34, was originally charged with five assaults. The couple have pleaded not guilty and denied any nonconsensual sex.

A representative for the attorney general’s office could not immediately be reached for further comment. An attorney representing the couple declined to comment Friday.

Ospino indicated he intends to rule next week on the prosecutors’ request to pare down the charges. Ospino also told attorneys that he wants to hold a preliminary hearing by the end of the year to determine whether the case, which has faced repeated delays, can proceed to trial.

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Last month, Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg dismissed charges related to allegations lodged by two of the seven women after they told prosecutors they had been “dragged through the mud” by the Orange County district attorney’s office and no longer wanted to participate in the case.

Weeks later, Bromberg recused himself from the case following allegations that he had mistreated defense attorneys and prosecutors during a heated court hearing.

The high-profile case has been embroiled in controversy since it began two years ago when then-Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas filed charges against Robicheaux and Riley, painting them as sexual predators who used their good looks to prey on vulnerable women, drug them and take them back to their Newport Beach home to sexually assault them.

In 2019, shortly after Todd Spitzer took over as the county’s top prosecutor, he assigned two deputy district attorneys to conduct a review of all the evidence collected in the case. The unusual move came after a prosecutor pointed out “serious proof problems” with the case, Spitzer said at the time.

Over three months, prosecutors looked at thousands of photographs and videos that had been taken from the couple’s computers, hundreds of hours of audio recordings, thousands of pages of documents and tens of thousands of text messages between Robicheaux and Riley spanning four years.

Ultimately, they determined there was insufficient evidence. Spitzer, who had accused his predecessor of overreaching in the case to bolster his reelection campaign, sought to dismiss all charges against the couple.

The request, however, was denied last year by Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones. Instead, Jones removed the district attorney’s office from the case and ordered it be turned over to the California attorney general’s office.

The review of the case by the D.A.'s office came under scrutiny during a personnel investigation into a district attorney investigator, Jennifer Kearns. In court filings, prosecutors have alleged that Kearns omitted pertinent information from reports she wrote about the case and claimed she led a “whisper campaign” to exaggerate evidence in favor of prosecution.

The agency launched a probe into Kearns’ actions and, as part of that inquiry, investigators concluded the review Spitzer ordered had been lacking.

Paul Anderson of City News Service contributed to this report.


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