Case # 18HF1291
OCDA Agrees with Judge’s Ruling Having Consistently Argued an Inherent Office Conflict Since September 2019 after Former DA Testified Under Oath that Case Was Used To Garner Publicity for his 2018 Re-election Campaign
SANTA ANA, Calif. – An Orange County Superior Court judge today referred the prosecution of a Newport Beach orthopedic surgeon and reality television star and his girlfriend to the state Attorney General. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office first asked the state Attorney General to take over the case in September 2019 after declaring a conflict and renewed that request after the judge denied the People’s motion to dismiss the case following a comprehensive three month de novo review of the evidence.
The decision by Judge Gregory Jones comes after he declined to grant the People’s February 7, 2020 request to dismiss the charges against Grant Robicheaux, 39, and Cerissa Riley, 33 based on a lack of sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the summer of 2019, a new prosecutor was assigned to prosecute the case after former District Attorney Tony Rackauckas admitted during a sworn deposition that he utilized the case to gain worldwide media attention weeks before the 2018 election for District Attorney. The prosecutor asked to be removed from the case due to non-work related issues before a complete review of the evidence could be completed.
In September 2019, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer declared a conflict in prosecuting People v. Robicheaux and Riley due to the possible perception that this case had been tainted by politics as a result of statements made by the former District Attorney during the sworn deposition.
The state Attorney General declared that the election of a new District Attorney cured the conflict issue and directed the OCDA to continue with the case.
Following the state Attorney General’s direction, District Attorney Spitzer assigned two new prosecutors to do a three-month complete case re-evaluation, which included a review of thousands of photographs, tens of thousands of text messages, hundreds of hours of audio recordings, and thousands of pages of transcripts of interviews with alleged victim interviews, witness interviews, and depositions.
A complete review of all the evidence was never done by the prior District Attorney administration.
The de novo review directly contradicted public statements made by the prior district attorney that video depicted up to 1,000 unconscious women being sexually assaulted. In fact there was not one video or picture that depicted an unconscious woman being sexually assaulted by the defendants.
The de novo review revealed there was insufficient evidence to prove the filed charges beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the legal burden prosecutors must meet to obtain a criminal conviction.
The two prosecutors assigned to the de novo review presented their findings to a group of their peers and then to the OCDA Executive Team in January. The de novo prosecutors declared that it would be unethical to proceed on the case given the lack of evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The OCDA Executive Team unanimously agreed that the office must move to dismiss the case in accordance with the rule of law.
In June 2020, prosecutors once again declared an irreconcilable conflict in People v. Robicheaux and Riley and asked Judge Jones to refer the prosecution of the case to the state Attorney General’s Office. Jones referred the case to the state Attorney General’s Office today.
“I am confident that the state Attorney General’s Office will resolve this case in a fair and just manner. I referred this case to the Attorney General’s office in September 2019 because of my concerns of the possible perception that this case had been tainted by politics even before it was filed. When the Attorney General ordered my office to keep the case, it was then and only then that a complete re-evaluation of the case revealed a lack of evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. A lack of admissible evidence does not mean that a crime was not committed; it means we lack the evidence to meet our legal burden in a court of law. Without sufficient evidence to prove the filed charges beyond a reasonable doubt, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is ethically prohibited from moving forward with this prosecution,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.
“We will always make the right decision to the best of our ability. This new administration inherited many challenging and conflicting issues when we assumed office. Despite the fact that I am a career-long advocate for victims’ rights and the statewide initiative campaign manager of Marsy’s Law who has done everything I can to protect the rights of victims and ensure their voices are heard, I have a duty and an obligation to evaluate the facts and make very difficult decisions that must be made in accordance with the rule of law.”