Criminal charges for drugging and sexually assaulting seven women will be dropped against Newport Beach orthopedic surgeon and reality TV star Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend Cerissa Riley, announced Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer on Feb. 4.
On Sept. 11, 2018, former DA Tony Rackauckas filed initial charges with People v. Robicheaux and Riley eight months after Robicheaux’s Newport beach home was searched under warrant.
Initial allegations against Robicheaux and Riley were investigated by the Newport Beach Police Department. The case was closed with detectives deciding not to send it to the District Attorney’s office for potential prosecution.
However, the investigation was brought to the attention of the OCDA’s office as a result of a DNA hit related to the sexual assault exam of one of the victims. Spitzer later noted that Rackauckas had not explained that the DNA was not connected to either of the two defendants when announcing the charges.
At the time the case was filed, Rackauckas claimed that the pair met with women in restaurant bars and drugged them before sexually assaulting them at Robicheaux’s apartment.
Robicheaux was charged with nine felonies and Riley seven felonies, including rape by use for drugs, oral copulation by use of anesthesia or controlled substance, assault with intent to commit a sexual offense and four counts of possession of a controlled substance for sale. Robicheaux was also charged with two counts of possession of an assault weapon and with a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a firearm during a health and safety code violation. Riley was charged with being knowingly vicariously armed with a firearm.
If convicted of all charges, Robicheaux faced a maximum of 40 years in a state prison while Riley faced 30 years and eight months.
Over the following weeks, Rackauckas held two press conferences in which he told the media that investigators recovered videos depicting up to 1,000 incapacitated women being sexually assaulted by Robicheaux and Riley. This revelation resulted in the case receiving international media coverage.
On Oct. 17, 2018, Rackauckas filed additional charges involving five more women who came forward as a result of the intense media coverage.
Robicheaux was charged with eight additional felonies while Riley was charged with six, including three counts of kidnapping with the intent to commit a sexual offense. Robicheaux was charged with three additional counts of rape by use of drugs, while Riley was charged with two additional counts. Riley and Robicheaux also received one additional count of assault with the intent for a sexual offense. Robicheaux alone faced one count of forcible rape.
Both defendants face a maximum of life in prison if convicted.
Robicheaux and Riley both denied the occurrence of any non-consensual sexual encounters, speaking of their swinger lifestyle on “Good Morning America.” Swinging is a type of open-relationship, often referred to as “partner swapping,” in which both partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity. They insisted that none of the women they had had a sexual relationship with were too incapacitated to be unable to consent.
The case erupted when, on June 19, 2019, Rackauckas admitted in a sworn deposition that he had used the case to garner media attention to aid his reelection campaign. Upon hearing this news, Spitzer ordered a complete reevaluation of the case.
A full review of the case was conducted by two veteran sexual assault prosecutors. The Denovo review, as it was called, examined thousands of photos, documents, conversations, emails, interviews, and videos and hundreds of audio recordings.
The review revealed that there were absolutely no videos or photos depicting an incapacitated woman being sexually assaulted by the defendants, announced Todd Spitzer on Feb. 4, 2020. It also showed that there were no independent witnesses who came forward to say they saw Robicheaux and Riley sexually assault an unconscious woman.
“There’s no winners here, there are only casualties. Because the public and the media were led to believe that there was video evidence which confirmed thousands of victims, it was misreported worldwide,” Spitzer said during a news conference. “There were two individuals who were mistreated by the system and they didn’t deserve it, because of a reelection.”
A team of prosecutors determined that there is no provable evidence that either of them committed any sexual offense.
“My sworn duty as the elected district attorney is not to secure convictions,” said Todd Spitzer in his press release. “My sworn duty is to pursue justice and ensure that the rights of victims and defendants are protected.”
Whether or not former DA Rackauckas will face charges remains to be seen. Spitzer passed the information about the case to the state bar association, claiming that it would be a conflict of interest for him to investigate his former political opponent, let alone prosecute Rackauckas.
The Orange County District Attorney made a motion to dismiss the case in front of Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones on Feb. 7. Instead of granting the motion, the judge took it “under submission” and allowed more time for all parties to present facts. He also ordered the case to be turned over to the alleged victims’ attorneys. Jones stated that he would make a ruling by April 3.
In summarizing the nature of the situation, Spitzer stated that the prior DA Rackauckas and his chief of staff manipulated the case and repeatedly misstated evidence to mislead the public in believing that Robicheaux and Riley sexually assaulted and videotaped up to 1,000 women with the help of drugs and alcohol.
“The mere filing of this case has destroyed, irreparably, two lives… [Robicheaux] had an incredibly successful medical practice. That is gone. And hopefully something of an ability to work again will be returned,” said Robicheaux’s representative Attorney Philip Cohen in an announcement following Spitzer’s press release.
Alessandra Arif is a City News Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.