D.A. to review video evidence in case of O.C. surgeon charged with rapes
The Orange County district attorney has ordered an examination of all evidence, including numerous videos, in the case of a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend charged with sexually assaulting seven women.
Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said that after the review, he will determine how to proceed in the case against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend, Cerissa Riley, whose high-profile prosecutions were launched by Spitzer’s predecessor, Tony Rackauckas.
The move comes after defense attorneys filed a motion for evidence, accusing Rackauckas of recklessly misrepresenting depictions on video of the couple engaged in sexual acts with intoxicated women and claiming his office had not reviewed any materials supporting such inflammatory claims.
The charges and salacious details involving the reality-TV star — including accusations that the doctor drugged and raped his victims — made national headlines, but defense lawyers say forensic experts found no evidence of sexual assault on the videos or people in any state in which they could not consent to sex.
After Rackauckas charged the couple in September with sexual assaults on two women in 2016, Spitzer publicly accused his political rival of being slow to file charges and using the case to bolster his profile as his reelection prospects sagged.
In a pair of news conferences at the time, Rackauckas said the 38-year-old Robicheaux and Riley, 31, met their victims in Newport Beach bars and restaurants, lured them to their swank home, where they plied them with drugs, and while they were drunk or drugged, had sex with them. He said there were thousands of videos supporting such claims, but weeks later, the office in a statement said it “never said all the images are incriminating, sexual in nature or show incapacitation or intoxication.”
The couple’s attorneys are now seeking a court order turning over communications related to the videos among the district attorney’s office, its forensic laboratory and the Newport Beach Police Department to determine when the videos were reviewed and the basis for Rackauckas’ statements.
“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 filing by attorneys Philip Kent Cohen, Scott Borthwick and Shawn Holley. The comments, the attorneys argued, “were dog whistles to a headline thirsty media and public.”
A former police officer and a private investigator hired by the defense wrote in sworn declarations that they reviewed more than 100,000 videos and said they saw no illegal sex acts. The former officer noted a “relatively small” portion contained sexual content and “none showed illegal sexual activity” or anyone who was unconscious or unable to resist sexual advances. The defense could use that evidence to seek a dismissal of the case.
The couple were initially charged with sexual assaults in 2016 on two women and after the case was publicized, charges involving five more women were filed. Robicheaux faces 17 felonies, including five rape charges, while Riley has been charged with 13 felonies. The charges include rape by use of drugs, kidnap to commit rape and oral copulation by anesthesia.
Robicheaux, who appeared on the Bravo reality TV show “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male” and was named “Orange County’s Most Eligible Bachelor” by Orange Coast Magazine in 2013, has been charged with attacks dating to 2009.
Since their arrest, the couple have maintained their innocence and denied having nonconsensual sex with their accusers.
The investigation began in 2016 after complaints by two women who separately told Newport Beach police they were taken to Robicheaux’s house on 44th Street and assaulted.
One woman described the couple as a “Bonnie and Clyde” team who drugged her and forced her to engage in sex acts, according to court documents. No arrests were made immediately after either incident, but detectives continued to work the case for two years.
According to the charges, Robicheaux and Riley attacked other women during that time. A woman in her mid-30s at the time met Robicheaux and Riley through a mutual acquaintance at a Halloween party in Newport Beach in October 2016, according to prosecutors. The pair are accused of drugging her drink with GHB and raping her after she passed out. She awoke during the assault, prosecutors said.
Another woman, in her early 20s, had dinner with Robicheaux in Newport Beach in April 2017 after they met on a dating app, prosecutors said. She told authorities that Riley showed up during the date and pretended to be Robicheaux’s friend, not a love interest. The woman said she went to a bar with them, where they plied her with alcohol and then took her to their home and sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious, prosecutors alleged. The woman awoke during the attack and locked herself in a bathroom for the night, officials said.
Another woman in her early 20s met the couple at a Fourth of July party in 2017, and she said she partied and drank with them on a boat a few days later. She told authorities the couple invited her to Robicheaux’s house, where the doctor raped her. As part of that investigation, police searched Robicheaux’s home in January 2018.
The search turned up large quantities of illegal drugs, including GHB, MDMA and cocaine, along with two illegal, unregistered assault rifles, four other firearms and several large-capacity magazines, prosecutors said.
But no arrests occurred for nine months.
Spitzer, who was running against Rackauckas in the district attorney’s election when the couple were arrested in the fall, obtained the January search warrant in the case and accused the incumbent prosecutor of failing to act.
That move led Rackauckas to accuse Spitzer of leaking a sealed court document. An alleged victim identified as only Jane Doe No. 5 asked the judge to find Spitzer — who was then an Orange County supervisor — in contempt of court for distributing the affidavit to members of the media.
Spitzer said he obtained the search warrant as a public record before it was sealed Sept. 11. The contents already had been published by The Times. A judge rescinded an initial order forbidding the media from publishing its contents.
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