Case # 18HF1291
Orange County District Attorney declared conflict in September 2019 and sent the case to the state Attorney General; but Attorney General then directed Orange County to continue the prosecution.
SANTA ANA, Calif. – An Orange County Superior Court judge today declined to grant the People’s request to dismiss the charges against Newport Beach orthopedic surgeon and reality television star and his girlfriend who are accused of drugging and sexually assaulting several women. The People argued to the Court that they could not legally and ethically proceed with prosecuting the case due to insufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Grant Robicheaux, 39, and Cerissa Riley, 33, face life in state prison if convicted of all charges.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer ordered a comprehensive review of People v. Robicheaux and Riley following the state Attorney General’s Office’s refusal to take the case in September 2019 after Spitzer declared a conflict due to the possible perception that this case had been tainted by politics.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office made the request to dismiss the charges on February 7, 2020 after 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 the evidence had not been done by the prior District Attorney administration.
The review exposed significant exculpatory evidence along with substantial discrepancies between audio recordings of interviews with the alleged victims and reports produced by a District Attorney investigator. That investigator has been placed on administrative leave.
“We have represented to the Court on multiple occasions that we do not have the evidence to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore we cannot legally, ethically, and morally proceed with the prosecution of this case,” said Spitzer. “My sworn duty is to pursue justice and ensure that the rights of victims and defendants are protected, and we are reviewing the Court’s ruling to determine the next steps for this case. It is my commitment to those obligations that prompted me declare a conflict in this case in September 2019, and when the state Attorney General directed me to continue handling the case, it is those obligations that prompted me to direct a complete re-evaluation of this case. This was the first time all of the evidence was reviewed. The results of that review were unequivocal – we lack the evidence necessary to prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. As a career-long advocate for victim’s rights and given the facts that our thorough reevaluation revealed, it pains me that the further review– which I requested from the state Attorney General almost a year ago – will only delay this process for the victims in this case and force them to endure further trauma.”
On September 11, 2018, the former District Attorney filed initial charges in People v. Robicheaux and Riley, eight months after a search warrant was executed on Robicheaux’s Newport Beach home. At the time the charges included assaults on two women.
Robicheaux was charged with nine felonies, including rape by use of drugs, oral copulation by use of anesthesia or a controlled substance, assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, four counts of possession of a controlled substance for sale, and two counts of possession of an assault weapon. He was also charged with sentencing enhancements of personal use of a firearm during a health and safety code violation.
Riley was charged with seven felonies, including rape by use of drugs, oral copulation by use of anesthesia or a controlled substance, assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, and four counts of possession of a controlled substance for sale. She was also charged with knowingly vicariously armed with a firearm.
Robicheaux faced a maximum of 40 years in state prison if convicted of all charges. Riley faced a maximum of 30 years and eight months in state prison.
On October 17, 2018, additional charges were filed involving five additional women who came forward as a result of the intense media coverage on the case.
Robicheaux was charged with an additional eight felonies, including three counts of kidnapping with the intent to commit a sexual offense, three additional counts of rape by the use of drugs, one additional count of assault with the intent to commit a sexual offense, and one count of forcible rape.
Riley was charged with an additional six felonies, including three counts of kidnapping with the intent to commit a sexual offense, two additional counts of rape by the use of drugs, one additional count of assault with the intent to commit a sexual offense.
Following the Attorney General’s decision to return the case to Orange County, Spitzer assigned two veteran sexual assault prosecutors to conduct a top to bottom review of the case. Over three months, the two prosecutors reviewed every piece of evidence in the case.
The De Novo review included:
- Thousands of photographs, videos, and chats from computers.
- Hundreds of hours of audio recordings.
- Thousands of pages of documents.
- Tens of thousands of text messages between the defendants over four years.
- Thousands of text messages between defendants and others, including alleged victims.
- Thousands of conversations on Bumble, Tinder, Facebook, and other social media services.
- Hundreds of emails including from alleged victims, defendants, police, and potential leads.
- Thousands of pages of transcripts of alleged victim interviews, witness interviews, and depositions.
Following its comprehensive review, the de novo review team recommended to the OCDA executive team that all charges should be dismissed. Based on the complete review, the OCDA executive team unanimously concurred that the People could not meet their legal burden of proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.