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Frenzied tabloid case ends quietly: Plea deal, probation for former O.C. surgeon Grant Robicheaux

A man and a woman holding hands walk out of a building.
Former Newport Beach surgeon Grant Robicheaux, shown leaving an Orange County courthouse in 2020 with Cerissa Riley, pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges on Wednesday, concluding the long-running case.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)
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More than five years ago, Orange County’s top prosecutor stood before the cameras and declared Grant Robicheaux a prolific sex criminal — a hand surgeon accused of weaponizing his looks and reality-TV celebrity to lure women, then drugging and assaulting them. More than a dozen accusers had come forward, the district attorney said, alleging that Robicheaux had left a trove of evidence by videotaping his crimes.

The case that began in 2018 with a tabloid frenzy took a wild, twisting road to collapse, ending in a Fullerton courtroom Wednesday with a plea deal on non-sex-related charges that leaves Robicheaux free on probation.

“He can wake up with a big sigh of relief,” Robicheaux’s attorney, Philip Kent Cohen, said minutes after his client pleaded guilty to a felony count of possessing an assault rifle and a misdemeanor count of possessing psilocybin.

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The deal allows Robicheaux to serve two years of probation on the felony, with the promise that it will drop to a misdemeanor after 16 months if he upholds the terms. Robicheaux, who gave up his medical license after the charges were filed, may then seek to have his record expunged and seek to practice medicine again.

Robicheaux, who was once deemed the county’s most eligible bachelor by Orange Coast Magazine and appeared in the Bravo reality show “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male,” was charged with sexually assaulting five women. His girlfriend, former schoolteacher Cerissa Riley, was accused of participating in attacks on three.

When Robicheaux’s property was searched, police found “tens or hundreds” of home videos, including some depicting women “highly intoxicated beyond the ability to consent,” said Tony Rackauckas, the district attorney who filed charges in 2018. The prosecutor portrayed Robicheaux and Riley as serial predators who met women on dating apps and in Newport Beach bars and plied them with drugs.

The case has drawn wide attention owing in part to Dr. Grant Robicheaux’s celebrity status. An orthopedic surgeon, he appeared on the Bravo show “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male.”

Sept. 28, 2023

Rackauckas’ election challenger, Todd Spitzer, declared the case flimsy and used it as a issue in his successful campaign to unseat him. Spitzer said that Rackauckas had “manufactured” the case and that no incriminating videos were found.

When Spitzer tried to drop the rape charges, however, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones refused to let him and questioned his ability to handle the case, considering the bitter political feud in which it was entangled. The judge noted that intoxicants that might render women incapable of sexual consent, including GHB, were found in Robicheaux’s home, and described Spitzer’s claim that it was a manufactured case as “simply ludicrous.”

The California attorney general’s office assumed prosecution of the case, which bounced among a number of judges and collapsed under a series of judicial rulings. The final judge to get the case, Superior Court Judge Michael Leversen, questioned the reliability of accusers and gutted the case. The only remaining accuser was an Israeli woman referred to in court as Jane Doe.

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Robicheaux and Riley met the woman at a Newport Beach restaurant in 2017, according to the criminal complaint, and Riley gave her cocaine in the bathroom of a bar. The couple made aggressive sexual advances toward her at Robicheaux’s home, and Robicheaux shook powder that he identified as PCP into a water bottle Riley gave her, the complaint said.

Leversen ultimately tossed out all the charges related to Jane Doe, who is currently in Israel on active duty in the war against Hamas. Her attorney, Sharon Tekolian, came to court Wednesday with an impact statement that her client had been working on for weeks, even amid warfare.

But Tekolian said Robicheaux’s attorney, Cohen, had raised the specter of a defamation suit if the statement was read aloud in court, so Tekolian instead had the statement filed under seal.

“My client has been effectively silenced,” Tekolian told the judge. “I can’t expose her to any potential liability.”

Tekolian blasted the attorney general’s office for its treatment of her client. “The prosecution has really left us out of the loop on a lot of these things,” she told the judge. “They didn’t seek our input. They refused to fly Jane Doe out.”

Deputy Atty. Gen. Namita Patel said that because the judge tossed out the last remaining charges related to Jane Doe last month — that Robicheaux and Riley had poisoned her water with drugs — the accuser was no longer entitled under the law to give a victim impact statement.

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Patel told the judge her office had made a good-faith effort to set up a meeting with Jane Doe, though it had not been possible, and had notified Tekolian of a plea after it was worked out Wednesday morning.

Authorities continue to seek potential victims after additional charges were filed this week against a prominent Newport Beach doctor, who now is accused of attacking at least seven women.

Oct. 18, 2018

Riley faced no further charges by Wednesday, and Robicheaux pleaded guilty to possessing a Bushmaster assault rifle and psilocybin, which police found during a search of his Newport Beach home in January 2018. Along with probation, Robicheaux must do 16 hours of drug education and 32 hours of community service.

Cohen did not make Robicheaux available for comment Wednesday but said his life had been devastated by the criminal case.

“His professional life is done,” Cohen said. “His reputation is forever done, and it’s sad to see what an allegation can do, regardless of what the ultimate outcome is.”

He said his client had lost his house and had not worked as a physician in more than five years. “He can’t work as a doctor. Google his name — who’s going to hire him? He can’t rent an apartment — it’s not a common name.”

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He said Robicheaux and Riley are living in an RV and raising a 2-year-old child together.

With the criminal case behind him, he said, Robicheaux was weighing whether to sue authorities who brought the case.

“He’s literally lost everything,” Cohen said. “I’m not being hyperbolic.”

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