A California prosecutor is dropping all charges against a doctor and his girlfriend, alleging that his predecessor “manufactured” allegations that the couple drugged and sexually assaulted up to 1,000 women.
The stunning turn of events comes a year and a half after the case against Grant Robicheaux, an orthopedic surgeon who appeared on the TV show The Online Dating Rituals of the American Male, and substitute teacher Cerissa Riley exploded into the headlines.
At the time, Orange County’s then-district attorney, Tony Rackauckas, claimed the pair lured women to their Newport Beach home, knocked them unconscious, and raped them.
At a press conference in September 2018, he said investigators had seized “hundreds” of incriminating videos from the couple’s phones. Asked whether the number could be as a high as a thousand, Rackauckas said, “I think so.”
A few months later, though, Rackauckas was out of office, replaced by current DA Todd Spitzer, who eventually ordered a review of the evidence. He says he was appalled by what he found.
“The prior District Attorney and his chief of staff manufactured this case and repeatedly misstated the evidence to lead the public and vulnerable women to believe that these two individuals plied up to 1,000 women with drugs and alcohol in order to sexually assault them—and videotape the assaults,” Spitzer said in a blistering statement.
“As a result of the complete case review I ordered beginning in July, we now know that there was not a single video or photograph depicting an unconscious or incapacitated woman being sexually assaulted.”
Rackauckas has not responded to his former rival’s allegations. But Robicheaux’s attorney praised the reversal.
“I don’t want to be overly dramatic or hyperbolic, but the mere filing of this case has destroyed irreparably two lives,” defense lawyer Philip Cohen told reporters.
“He has become persona non grata with an entire city, an entire state—and I don’t want to be exaggerating—but probably an entire country.”
Robicheaux, 39, and Riley, 32, insisted from the start that all their liaisons were consensual. They were swingers, their attorneys argued, and the so-called victims were willing participants.
They claimed Rackauckas inflated the allegations, hoping that media attention would buoy his re-election effort. And last June, unsealed transcripts of a deposition showed the ex-prosecutor thought the publicity would help him.
Spitzer said that’s when he assembled a team to re-evaluate the case. “A team of prosecutors with a combined 175 years of experience determined there is no provable evidence that Robicheaux and Riley committed any sexual offense,” he said in a press release.
The charges that will be dropped include kidnapping and rape; Robicheaux and Riley would have faced up to life in prison if convicted.
At least some of the women who accused Robicheaux and Riley maintain they were assaulted.
Michael Fell, an attorney for one of them, told the Los Angeles Times the decision is a betrayal of his client.
“For somebody to report, for them to go through what she had to go through with the police, for the district attorney’s office to file criminal charges, for her to have to be patient the last two years while the case is being prosecuted, only for it to be dropped—she’s going to be devastated,” Fell said.