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Newport Beach doctor accused of raping women is a victim of politics, attorneys say

Newport Beach doctor accused of raping women is a victim of politics, attorneys say
Dr. Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend, Cerissa Riley, pictured in court Oct. 17, have been charged with 17 felony counts, including five counts of rape. (Los Angeles Times)

Attorneys for a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend who are accused of drugging and sexually assaulting several women say the allegations against their clients were misrepresented amid a “political showdown” in last year’s race for Orange County district attorney.

In documents filed last week in Orange County Superior Court, attorneys for Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley argued that prosecutors did not thoroughly review videos seized from the defendants before then-Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas contended last year the videos revealed evidence of possibly hundreds of instances of rape.

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The videos contain no evidence of rape, the defense attorneys said.

“Despite the lack of any ‘rape videos,’ and despite the lack of any meaningful review of the videos by the prosecutor’s office, the statements that were made set off a frenzy that completely destroyed the integrity of this case and the defendants’ ability to a fair trial,” according to the attorneys.

The lawyers are seeking a court order turning over to them records of communications related to the videos among the district attorney’s office, its forensic lab and the Newport Beach Police Department to help determine when the videos were reviewed and what information officials relied on for their statements about their contents and the number of victims they brought to light.

The records could form the basis for a motion to dismiss the case on grounds of outrageous government conduct, according to Riley’s attorney Scott Bothwick.

The DA’s office, now run by new Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer, did not immediately comment Monday.

Robicheaux and Riley are out of custody on $1-million bail each and are scheduled to be back in court Feb. 7 for the defense motion on the communications to be heard.

Robicheaux, 38, who was once dubbed Orange County’s most eligible bachelor and appeared on a reality TV dating show, and Riley, 31, were accused in September of rape by drugs, oral copulation by anesthesia, assault with intent to commit sexual offenses and other crimes.

They are charged with 17 felony counts, including five counts of rape. The pair pleaded not guilty to a slew of felony charges during a court appearance in Newport Beach last fall.

They have denied all accusations of nonconsensual sex.

Two consultants said that of the more than 100,000 videos, a “relatively small” portion contained sexual encounters and none showed rape or assault or people who were unconscious or unable to consent, according to statements submitted to the court.

The cache of videos contained many duplicates, and an “overwhelming portion” depict “everyday, innocuous events,” private investigator Russell Greene said in a signed declaration.

The defendants’ lawyers argue that widespread media attention, which they say portrayed the defendants as “record-setting rapists,” has erased “any expectation that they could obtain due process and a full and fair opportunity to prepare, defend and try this case.”

The lawyers said statements by prosecutors in news conferences and court hearings revealed that the government’s attorneys hadn’t reviewed the videos they said contained evidence of assault.

On Sept. 18, Rackauckas said prosecutors had a “substantial number” of videos depicting possible victims. “I cannot tell you if it is tens or hundreds; it is certainly more than tens,” he said.

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In an Oct. 17 court hearing, Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Walker told Judge Gregory Jones that the review of videos “had to be stopped in order to protect the privacy of patients that were treated by the defendant.”

In a Nov. 6 statement to NBC News, the district attorney’s office said: “This case is not about the video evidence, it’s about the seven women who bravely came forward to report their assaults. The search of the electronics is to see if there is additional evidence that the victims were further victimized or being filmed during the crimes or if there are other victims who don’t know they were victimized.”

The accused aren’t the only ones who have raised concerns, the defense attorneys say. They also allege that witnesses for the defense have refused to cooperate due to “fear of being sucked into this maelstrom.”

On Nov. 1, a woman referred to as Jane Doe No. 5 asked Jones to find Spitzer — who was then an Orange County supervisor running against Rackauckas for district attorney — in contempt of court for distributing a then-sealed search warrant and affidavit to members of the media after a Rackauckas news conference following the defendants’ Oct. 17 arraignments. The affidavit details the police investigation into Robicheaux and Riley beginning in 2016.

Spitzer said he obtained the search warrant — filed in court Jan. 3, 2018 — as a public record before it was sealed Sept. 11.

He argued that prosecutors should have filed charges against the couple earlier, and he accused Rackauckas of using the case for political purposes nearing election day.

Though Jane Doe No. 5 was not involved in the search warrant, which pertained to three other women, she alleged a sexual assault at the hands of Robicheaux and Riley.

“Jane Doe No. 5 was upset and was uncomfortable with the fact Spitzer might be in charge of the district attorney’s office if he won the election,” according to the woman’s court motion. “She believed he acted inappropriately and violated the rights of the victims in this case when he should be protecting the victim.”

On Oct. 23, Jones reversed his earlier order barring journalists from reporting on the search warrant and unsealed it.

Spitzer was elected district attorney on Nov. 6.

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