An Orange County Superior Court judge Thursday approved a request by prosecutors to reduce charges against a Newport Beach hand surgeon and his girlfriend, who were accused of drugging and raping multiple women.

The move means Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley now face charges involving only two alleged victims. The 40-year-old Robicheaux had previously been facing charges involving five alleged victims, and Riley, 34, was charged in connection with three alleged victims.

There were a total of 13 accusers, some of whom could still be used by prosecutors as further evidence of a pattern of behavior.

Prosecutors with the state Attorney General’s Office had previously indicated they wanted to reduce charges to just one alleged victim. But last week, they told Judge Frank Ospino they decided to narrow it down to two victims instead.

The newly amended complaint alleges the two defendants on Oct. 2, 2016, kidnapped a woman to commit a sex offense. It also alleges they assaulted her with the intent to commit a sex offense.

Prosecutors also allege that on April 16, 2017, Robicheaux dosed a drink of a second woman and furnished her with PCP, while Riley is accused of furnishing her cocaine. The two are accused of assaulting the woman with the intent to commit a sex offense and administering her with a “stupefying drug,” according to the complaint.

Robicheaux is also accused of misdemeanor counts of possession of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug, Ecstasy, cocaine and GHB, commonly known as a date-rape drug. He is also charged with two felony counts of possession of an assault weapon.

Defense attorneys intend to attack the search warrant executed in the case in hopes of getting the drug and weapon charges dismissed. A hearing on that is scheduled for Oct. 20.

Defense attorney Philip Cohen, who represents Robicheaux, said he also intends to file a motion to have all the charges dismissed due to outrageous governmental conduct stemming from complaints about how the case became a political football during Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer’s successful campaign to unseat Tony Rackauckas in 2018, the year charges were filed.

According to a search warrant executed in the case, one woman said she met Robicheaux on April 3, 2016, and they exchanged numbers. On April 10, 2016, she met with Robicheaux and Riley at a boat dock in Newport Beach and they began drinking, according to the affidavit.

She told investigators she soon felt “very intoxicated, as if she consumed `10 beers,”’ the affidavit states. Then she said she saw Riley pour liquid from a contact lens case into a beer bottle cap and drink it. She said she rode in a golf cart to Robicheaux’s residence but needed help getting in because she was “unable to walk straight,” according to the affidavit.

Another alleged victim said she became intoxicated and passed out at a bar on Oct. 2, 2016, and was taken to Robicheaux’s apartment, where she woke up screaming, prompting calls to police, according to the affidavit. She told investigators she woke up with a stranger on top of her, but she did not believe he was trying to rape her, the document states. She said the unknown male was hitting her in the face and that she was kicked in the head by a second person, while a third person videotaped it with a phone, police said.

Robicheaux told officers he and his girlfriend fell asleep in his bed and that he woke up to the woman screaming, saying he did not know her and did not hit her, according to the affidavit.

The case was reassigned to the Attorney General’s Office last year after Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones refused Spitzer’s equest to dismiss the case and cited the politics interjected into the case.

In a daylong hearing last Thursday, Ospino heard arguments from attorneys for the alleged victims and defendants, as well as the prosecutors.

One alleged victim told Ospino she was “exhausted” by the twists and turns in the case over the past three years, including the recent surprise decision by Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg to recuse himself from the case.

“This case is a complete travesty,” the woman told the judge.

She accused defense team investigators of “harassing” her and her family.

“I’m exhausted because I’ve already begged another judge to not dismiss my case,” she said, referring to her statement to a previous judge overseeing it.

She said she told the defendants she did not want to have sex with them, “But somehow that’s not enough evidence. It doesn’t make sense.”

The woman said prosecutors have indicated there are “holes in my case,” but they have not interviewed her about her complaint.

“I’m also enraged that seven rape victims cannot find a prosecutor in Orange County or the state who have the audacity to try a serial rapist,” the woman said.

Ospino spent a good portion of the hearing last week focusing on explosive allegations in a motion filed by attorney Matt Murphy, a retired Orange County prosecutor who represents five accusers in the case.

Since the state prosecutors took over the case, “none of the victims have recanted, no alibi witnesses have appeared, and all six women represented by Marsy’s Law counsel are still desirous of prosecution,” Murphy wrote in a June 4 filing.

“From the victims’ perspective, responsibility for the contentious nature of this litigation lies squarely with a district attorney (Spitzer) who continues to place his own political self-interests above the rules of ethics and the rights of victims,” Murphy wrote.

Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, brushed off Murphy’s criticism.

“Mr. Murphy continues to make unfounded allegations in this case,” Edds said earlier. “Instead of his spurious, self-serving declarations, we look forward to hearings under oath in a court of law.”

Murphy faulted the Attorney General’s Office for “a series of errors, well-intentioned as they may have been,” in the case.

Even though Spitzer’s office is off the case, Murphy said, “In short, Mr. Spitzer, it seems, simply cannot let this case go.”

Spitzer, Murphy argued, “has continued to burst through any `ethical screen’ that may have been erected, and the Attorney General, it seems, has provided Mr. Spitzer a welcome, if reluctant, audience.”

Murphy accused Spitzer of “repeatedly contacting the Attorney General’s Office” about the case despite his office’s disqualification from it. Spitzer “then withheld discovery from the Attorney General’s Office for several months, and what had been provided was sent over in an `unorganized fashion,”’ Murphy said.

When one alleged victim filed a complaint against Spitzer with the State Bar, Spitzer “again contacted the Attorney General’s Office and informed them he would now make himself available to the defense to impeach the credibility of the complaining victim,” Murphy said.

Deputy Attorney General Mary Strickland said her office has done an “exhaustive” review and dedicated four prosecutors who mostly worked just on this case for about a year, which she said was “unheard of.”

Strickland said the prosecutors were “unanimous” in concluding that they did not have enough evidence to prove cases “beyond a reasonable doubt” for all but two of the alleged victims.

But Strickland denied that Spitzer had any impact on their decision.

“I’m not sure I would recognize him if I saw him on the street,” Strickland said.

Ospino said he was not put off by any contact the Attorney General’s Office had with Spitzer’s office, but he wanted to know more about the allegation that Spitzer called state prosecutors and said he would be a witness for the defense in the case because one of the accusers had filed a complaint about Spitzer with the State Bar.

In his ruling Thursday accepting the amended complaint, Ospino said he was “satisfied” that the prosecution team was experienced enough to handle the case, that they had devoted enough resources to investigating it independently and that they were not “tainted” by the politics that have affected it in the past.

The judge also noted how the prosecution team of four attorneys was supported by three supervisors and that Attorney General Rob Bonta had also signed off on the case after a series of meetings. Ospino said the record showed Bonta did not “rubber stamp” the request from his prosecutors.

Ospino set a Jan. 10 date for a preliminary hearing, although he initially wanted to do it sooner. He relented when prosecutors and defense attorneys said they had to deal with hearings on the search warrant and motion to dismiss first.

“This case is very, very, very old,” Ospino said. “This case needs to start moving forward.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.