Lawyers for Newport doctor accused of sexual assaults seek communications related to ex-DA’s claim of ‘a thousand’ potential victims
Lawyers for a Newport Beach doctor and his girlfriend who are accused of numerous cases of sexual assault appeared in a Newport Beach courtroom Friday to try to obtain verbal and written communications within the Orange County district attorney’s office that could form the basis for an argument that the prosecution’s actions deprived their clients of the opportunity for a fair trial by misrepresenting them to the media.
Attorneys for Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley argued before Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones for a court order turning over records of internal communications regarding electronic data that then-District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said during a September news conference could show “hundreds” or “a thousand” potential victims.
Defense attorneys filed a motion seeking the court order in January related to communications among the district attorney’s office, its forensic lab and the Newport Beach Police Department.
Prosecutors filed opposition to the motion March 22, saying there was no information relevant to the defense’s request.
Jones deferred ruling on the motion Friday and said he would deliver a written statement within a week.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker called Rackauckas’ comment — the central focus of the defense’s argument for a future motion to dismiss the case — a misstatement that “has been corrected.”
Prosecutors said the wording of a reporter’s question prompted the comment, which garnered widespread headlines. It “tripped him up,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Lockhart said, suggesting Rackauckas’ estimate referred to the number of videos, not the number of victims.
“One misstatement is not the basis for this case,” Walker said, emphasizing that the case — which now includes seven alleged female victims — “was brought forward based on statements by multiple victims.”
Robicheaux’s attorney Philip Cohen argued that the defense requires information on the knowledge Rackauckas had at the time of the statement to determine whether the comment was careless or negligent. The defense needs to know whether he had been accurately or erroneously informed of the contents of reviewed videos or had personally reviewed the videos, or made the statement with no knowledge of what the materials contained, Cohen said.
“There have been over 2,800 media references of this case, many that focused on the unsupported statements of DA Rackauckas,” lawyers for the couple said in a reply to prosecutors’ opposition to their motion.
Robicheaux and Riley are scheduled to be back in court May 3.
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