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Woman who accused Newport Beach doctor of rape asks judge not to dismiss charges

Accused doctor and his girlfriend masked up in court
Dr. Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend, Cerissa Riley, who are charged with drugging and sexually assaulting several women, are shown at a pretrial hearing at Orange County Superior Court.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A woman who alleges that in 2009 she was raped by a Newport Beach doctor who is charged alongside his girlfriend with drugging and sexually assaulting other women pleaded with an Orange County Superior Court judge Thursday not to drop charges against the man she said attacked her.

The woman, who was identified in court as Jane Doe 1, said she has become exhausted by the case, which has been mired in controversy since it began nearly three years ago.

“This case is a complete travesty,” she said. “I’ve already begged a judge not to dismiss my case and here I am again.”

She described defense attorneys representing Grant Robicheaux, 40, and Cerissa Riley, 34, investigating her sexual history and harassing her and her parents after she came forward to report the alleged attack to prosecutors in 2018. She said she was “slut shamed” by Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer a year later when he sought dismissal of all charges against the couple.

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Robicheaux and Riley, who were seated next to each other in the front row of the courtroom gallery, sat quietly as the woman addressed the court.

“Overall, this process has been awful,” the woman said.

The woman’s comments came amid a request from prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office to drop some rape charges that were filed against the couple — including charges stemming from Jane Doe 1’s allegations. They’ve indicated they plan to center their case on allegations lodged by two other women.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank Ospino had anticipated ruling on the prosecutors’ request to pare down the charges on Thursday, but opted to hold off until next week to review Jane Doe 1’s witness impact statement and some other court transcripts.

He has indicated his desire to speed up the case, which has faced repeated delays over the course of nearly three years. He told attorneys this month that he wants to hold a preliminary hearing by the end of the year to determine whether the case can proceed to trial.

Prosecutors from the attorney general’s office have argued that after a thorough review of the case they don’t have enough evidence to prove allegations beyond a reasonable doubt related to Jane Doe 1 and two other women who have accused the couple of drugging and raping them.

“We’re making decisions based on the evidence and nothing else,” said Deputy Atty. Gen. Mary Strickland.

Jane Doe 1 countered in her comments that if the attorney general’s office identified holes in her case, they should have interviewed her. No such interviews have occurred since state prosecutors took over the case from the Orange County district attorney’s office a year ago, she said.

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Robicheaux was originally charged in 2018 with sexually assaulting seven women. Riley was originally charged with five assaults. The couple have pleaded not guilty and denied any nonconsensual sex.

Last month, an Orange County Superior Court judge 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 district attorney’s office and no longer wanted to participate in the case.

The high-profile case has faced repeated controversies since it began 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 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.

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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 by Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones. Jones said politics had infected 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 later came under scrutiny during a personnel investigation into a district attorney investigator.

Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said both the attorney general and district attorney’s reviews of the case showed that “the overwhelming majority of the originally filed charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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“It is heartbreaking when a prosecutor has to tell someone that there is insufficient evidence to proceed in a case, but we are bound by the ethical obligations of the law and prosecutors are prohibited from proceeding on charges they know they cannot prove,” she said.

Defense attorneys representing the couple have not objected to prosecutors’ proposal to pare down the charges.

“The law is clear,” attorney Philip Cohen, who is representing Robicheaux, said Thursday. “A prosecutor who harbors a reasonable doubt about the charges is ethically obligated to dismiss ... or not proceed.”


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