Former Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas Friday disputed reports that his office tried to use publicity about an investigation of a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend in a sex case to help his re-election chances.
Rackauckas told City News Service that during a deposition in a civil case involving an alleged victim he repeatedly denied using the case against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley to help with his re-election, which fell short last year. But he did acknowledge that hypothetically, publicity about the case could be considered helpful to his re-election campaign.
In the June 19 deposition, Rackauckas was grilled by attorney Philip Cohen, a defense attorney in the criminal case, about the former prosecutor’s role in publicity about the case.
“Did you see this case of a thousand victims, a good-looking doctor, a good-looking girlfriend, as being a potential publicity vehicle for you?” Cohen asked Rackauckas.
“I certainly expected it to get a lot of publicity, yes,” he replied.
“And did you think that that publicity may be helpful to your campaign?”
“Yes,” Rackauckas replied.
“And that was the thought — you wanted to help your campaign, I assume. You wanted to get reelected?” Cohen asked.
“Of course,” Rackauckas replied.
“And if there was an opportunity to get publicity to show you doing your job, and you being a vigilant D.A., that is good for your election campaign?” Cohen asked.
“Yes,” Rackauckas replied.
“And you saw this case, with the accouterments, as potentially being a very good vehicle; is that fair to say?” he asked.
“Yes,” the former top prosecutor said.
The depositions of Rackauckas and his former chief of staff Susan Kang Schroeder in a lawsuit brought by one of the alleged victims have come under scrutiny in the criminal case as defense attorneys have criticized prosecutors for not turning over an email from the alleged victim which said she did not want to proceed with her part in the criminal case.
The woman criticized District Attorney Todd Spitzer, who defeated Rackauckas last year, saying she felt he “used the victims in this case for his own political stunt against” Rackauckas, according to the email sent in November of last year, which was part of a motion brought by defendants last month.
“In my opinion, he is sleazy and not someone I want overseeing our case,” the woman said.
Spitzer issued a statement Friday saying that all of the allegations from defense attorneys about politicizing of the case compelled him to ask the Attorney General’s Office to take over the case. However, the Attorney General’s Office determined Spitzer did not have a conflict of interest, clearing his office to continue prosecuting the case.
“The need to be open to a complete reevaluation in this case was the result of the deep concerns I had previously expressed publicly about how the case was exploited for re-election purposes by the former District Attorney and his chief of staff,” Spitzer said.
“My objective in directing this review was to ensure that the rights of the victims in this case, as well as the rights of the defendants, are protected as is my duty under the law.”
Spitzer said of the depositions that, “Many of the statements in the depositions are disturbing and confirmed to me the validity of all the accusations of impropriety that I levied against the former District Attorney and his chief of staff.”
A message left with Schroeder was not immediately returned.
Spitzer noted how Rackauckas’ office brought contempt allegations against Spitzer for releasing a search warrant in the case to “besmirch him.” An Orange County Superior Court judge later concluded the search warrant was already a public document and that Spitzer did nothing wrong.
Spitzer said he has asked the State Bar of California to “make a determination regarding the pretrial publicity” in the Robicheaux case.
“I have asked the State Bar to review specifically any possible violations on the part of Mr. Rackauckas and Ms. Schroeder of State Bar Rules 3.6 and 3.8 for holding three press conferences in the weeks leading up to the election on a case Mr. Rackauckas himself admitted under oath was motivated, in part, by his re-election efforts.”
Robicheaux, 39, and Riley, 32, have pleaded not guilty to drugging and sexually assaulting multiple victims.
Robicheaux is charged in connection with seven victims, while Riley is charged with five.
Prosecutors have contended that the two would take advantage of their good looks to meet women in restaurants or bars, then drug them and lure them back to Robicheaux’s apartment, where they were sexually assaulted.