An Orange County judge declined Friday to immediately rule on a request by prosecutors to drop charges against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend, who are accused of drugging and sexually assaulting multiple women, saying he wants to review the case in more depth.
Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones gave attorneys on both sides until March 19 to file written arguments, and also asked for written copies of statements submitted by two alleged victims.
Jones scheduled another hearing for April 3.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer held a news conference Tuesday to announce his decision to drop charges against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley, claiming the case was used for political gain by former District Attorney Tony Rackauckas during his re-election campaign.
But Spitzer also insisted a review of the case by top prosecutors in his office found no concrete evidence needed to prove the case.
“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.
Robicheaux, 39, and Riley, 32, are charged with drugging and sexually assaulting multiple victims. Robicheaux is charged in connection with seven victims, while Riley is charged with five.
When the charges were announced in 2018, Rackauckas described the pair as swingers who would take advantage of their good looks to meet women in social settings, then drug them and take them home, where they were sexually assaulted.
Rackauckas claimed investigators found thousands of videos depicting the pair’s activities, and suggested there might be hundreds of alleged victims.
In court Friday, statements were read from two alleged victims in the case, both of whom insisted they were sexually assaulted by the defendants.
Prior to Friday’s hearing, Robicheaux and Riley spoke to ABC News, saying they were shocked by the charges against them, denying they committed any crimes and insisting their lives were thrown into turmoil by the allegations.
“Within about an hour, my whole life was ripped away from me,” Robicheaux said. “I was fired from every hospital. I was suspended from my career, my practice.”
He said the couple are “still in shock. Still can’t believe this has happened to us.”
The surgeon said news that charges might be dropped against them felt like a chance to “get your life back.”
“(You’re a) dead person walking, and now a breath of life is breathed back into you,” he said.
Robicheaux once appeared on a TV reality show called “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male.”
While announcing plans to drop the case, Spitzer 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.”
Rackauckas told City News Service that while he conceded that the case was expected to generate publicity, he did not approve the filing of charges to boost his re-election campaign.
Spitzer on Tuesday also accused Rackauckas of making a public “misstatement” that there may be more than 1,000 potential victims, a claim that prompted hundreds of phone calls into the district attorney’s office.
A civil suit filed by one of the accusers against the defendants and seeking $22 million in damages is pending.
Spitzer said he is willing to meet personally with all of the alleged victims in the case to discuss his reasoning for dropping the charges.
Spitzer’s announcement Tuesday reopened a long-brewing feud between him and Rackauckas. The former district attorney criticizing Spitzer for turning his back on the accusers in the case.
Rackauckas said he was “very concerned that Todd’s latest stunt will deter future sexual assault victims from coming forward.”
Rackauckas, who lost his re-election bid to Spitzer in November 2018, said his successor “stabbed Marsy’s Law in the guts,” referring to the state law that gives victims more say in criminal proceedings.
“My heart goes out to the women who had the courage to come forward and report a sexual assault and I hope that they are able to heal,” Rackauckas said.
Referring to statements Rackauckas made during depositions in a civil suit filed against the defendants, Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, said Rackauckas “admitted under oath that he had not reviewed any of the evidence in this case before he announced to the world that there were up to 1,000 victims on video, and that he used this case as a vehicle to gain pre-election publicity in an effort to help his 2018 reelection campaign.”
Edds added, “The results of a comprehensive three-month de novo review of every single piece of evidence in this case were presented to District Attorney Todd Spitzer, members of his executive team, and a team of prosecutors with a combined 175 years of experience. This review was also presented to the Rackauckas-assigned deputy district attorney and she did not disagree with the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The decision of the de novo team to dismiss this case was unanimous.”
Rackauckas fired back that the case was filed by prosecutors who believed in the case and it was later supported by all of their supervisors.
Rackauckas said the original prosecutors were taken off the case and an investigator in the office involved in the case was placed on leave, although that has not been confirmed. This week, attorneys involved in the civil suit won a motion to depose the investigator.