One Year Ago Today (July 14, 2021)…An Orange County Superior Court judge granted a request by prosecutors to dismiss charges related to two alleged rape victims in the case against a Newport Beach hand surgeon and his girlfriend, who are accused in drugging and sexually assaulting several women.
Prosecutors from the California Attorney General’s Office had said previously they wanted to chip down charges to one alleged victim in the case against Dr. Grant Robicheaux, 40, and Cerissa Laura Riley, 34. Robicheaux was charged initially with counts involving seven alleged victims and Riley with five. With Wednesday’s ruling, the doctor now faces charges involving five alleged victims and Riley for three alleged victims, with charges related to other alleged victims to be decided later.
The Attorney General’s Office took over prosecution of the case last year when another Orange County Superior Court judge removed Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer’s office from the case.
Three of the alleged victims want to be removed from the case, according to prosecutors, and Judge Steven Bromberg said in his written ruling that he “understands why they are asking to be removed from this case as alleged victims.”
Bromberg noted that a declaration from investigator Jennifer Doss on why two of the women wanted out of the case was “sparse, nevertheless, it is adequate and to the point. After 2 1/2 years, these ladies are entitled to leave this case if they so wish.”
Bromberg granted the prosecutors’ motion to dismiss charges related to two of the women, but deferred ruling on the other woman at this time.
Doss said in court papers that after March 24, that woman — referred to as Jane Doe 2 — “stated she wanted to think about it,” and that Doss left her a voicemail, but it wasn’t returned, so prosecutors assumed she wanted out of the case, according to Bromberg’s ruling. The judge said there were “too many unanswered questions” about why Jane Doe 2 did not respond to prosecutors.
Doss’ declaration, which Bromberg ordered unsealed over the objections of prosecutors, indicated Jane Doe 2 said she did not want to be involved in the case any longer after a March 24 meeting with prosecutors, but then she also “wished to think about her decision.”
Doss said she made unsuccessful attempts to follow up with Jane Doe 2 twice more in April. Doss said she also left a message about a May 14 hearing, but still never heard from her.
Bromberg told prosecutors they must “use due diligence at the highest level and attempt to contact Jane Doe 2 once again to determine if Jane Doe 2 truly wishes to no longer participate in the present case.” He also ordered prosecutors to file a declaration under seal explaining why she no longer wants to be in the case.
As for Jane Doe 3, Doss said she left a business card for her at what was her last known address.
“That same day, I received a call from Jane Doe 3. She sounded upset,” Doss said. The woman said she “no longer resided in California, did not wish to receive any further correspondence regarding the case, and did not wish to be involved in the case.”
Jane Doe 5, who has filed a civil lawsuit against the defendants, also told Doss that she wanted out of the criminal case.
Doss said she was scheduled to have a video-conference meeting with Jane Doe 5, and when she did not participate, the investigator followed up with a call and was told that the woman “due to unforeseen family circumstances” could not join the meeting and would be in touch to reschedule.
Doss tried to call her back on March 18 and 24 and then again on April 15 with no success, but then on April 26 the woman said she wanted out of the criminal case, the investigator said.
The judge said he would formally rule on prosecutors’ motion to whittle down the case to one alleged victim and some drug and weapons charges — which would mean dismissing all counts “as to Jane Doe 2, 1 and 7” — at the next court hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
At the last hearing, in June, attorney Matt Murphy told Bromberg that he was representing a new client in the case, a potential eighth alleged victim.
The case has gone through multiple unusual gyrations since it was filed in 2018. It became a flashpoint in the election between Spitzer and former Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who Spitzer unseated. Spitzer ordered an extensive review of the case and assigned two new prosecutors to it before deciding he would dump all of the charges against the pair.
Murphy, who represents five alleged victims, and attorney Michael Fell, who represents one of the alleged victims, objected and Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Jones denied the motion to dismiss the case and handed off the prosecution to the Attorney General’s Office last August, citing the politics involved between Spitzer and Rackauckas as one of the main reasons.
District Attorney’s Office investigator Jennifer Kearns, who was removed from the case, has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the county, alleging she was retaliated against.