Citing a lack of evidence and accusing his predecessor of mishandling the case, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said Tuesday he is dropping charges against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend who were accused of drugging and sexually assaulting multiple women.
Spitzer has long criticized the case against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley, claiming it was used for political gain by former District Attorney Tony Rackauckas during a re-election campaign. Spitzer said Tuesday a full review of the case by his office’s executive team has found a lack of evidence to proceed.
“There is not a single piece of evidence or video or photo that shows an unconscious or incapacitated woman being sexually assaulted. Not one,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer also pointed to comments made by Rackauckas during a recent deposition in a lawsuit stemming from the case, in which the former district attorney conceded that he anticipated getting publicity by announcing the charges during his re-election campaign.
“After the depositions, I was freaked out,” Spitzer said. “I was very disturbed. I have the former elected and sworn district attorney of Orange County admitting that this case was used for campaign purposes.”
In a lengthy news conference in which he walked through the origins of the case, Spitzer also accused Rackauckas of making a public “misstatement” that there may be more than 1,000 potential victims, a statement that prompted hundreds of phone calls into the district attorney’s office.
Spitzer said his office would be filing papers this week seeking dismissal of the case. It was not immediately clear when a hearing would be held.
Spitzer also said he is willing to meet personally with all of the alleged victims in the case to discuss his reasoning for dropping the charges.
Robicheaux, 39, and Riley, 32, were charged with drugging and sexually assaulting multiple victims. Robicheaux was charged in connection with seven victims, while Riley was charged with five.
When the case was filed, Rackauckas contended the pair 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.
Defense attorneys previously pointed to Rackauckas’ claim during a Sept. 18, 2018, news conference that investigators had “thousands of videos” in evidence that they said showed there could be “hundreds” or “more than a thousand” victims. The defense attorneys argued that prosecutors had not observed that number of videos at the time and none of them show evidence of rapes.
Spitzer said Tuesday his office’s new review of the case backs that claim.
“I didn’t create this situation, but it’s my responsibility to fix it,” Spitzer said.
He offered a public apology to the alleged victims, and also to Robicheaux and Riley.
“What happened to their lives and how this case materialized is nothing short of a travesty,” he said.
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