- In 2018, the Orange Country district attorney’s office in California indicted Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley of 13 combined charges.
- Then-prosecutor Tony Rackauckas said the couple lured women to their home, then drugged and raped them.
- He claimed he had evidence that the couple sexually assaulted up to 1,000 incapacitated and unconscious women.
- Rackauckas lost reelection in 2018. The new DA reviewed the case and found that the evidence was “manufactured” and has now announced he’s dropping the charges.
- The couple’s attorney told Insider he’s glad his clients are free, but the damage is done.
- Some women who came forward to police still want the case to continue.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A California prosecutor has dropped all charges against a surgeon and his girlfriend accused of drugging and raping up to 1,000 incapacitated women.
The complete 180-degree turn in the case was announced Tuesday, as Orange Country district attorney Todd Spitzer alleged his predecessor had “manufactured” the entire case for political gain.
Grant Robicheaux, a surgeon who appeared on the TV show “The Online Dating Rituals of the American Male,”and substitute teacher Cerissa Riley, were painted as a “Bonnie and Clyde” team that lured women to Robicheaux’s posh apartment, only to drug and rape them on camera.
But Spitzer, in a statement from his office, said the evidence was all made up.
“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,” he said. “What the prior District Attorney and his chief of staff did to these defendants and to the women involved in this case is a travesty.”
The statement went on to implicate former District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
“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.”
Philip Cohen, a defence attorney representing Robicheaux and Riley, told Insider his clients feel “ecstatic” and “vindicated” by the news, but wish people had believed them sooner.
“I’ve had evidence for a year and a half. I laid out this entire scenario and people thought I was a conspiratorialist,” Cohen told Insider. “It’s unfortunate that it took this long to get anyone to listen.”
Robicheaux and Riley were painted as sexual predators
Robicheaux, a young doctor, and Riley, his girlfriend, had their mugshots splattered across front pages after being charged and arrested in September 2018 by then-Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Rackauckas’s office alleged they drugged and sexually assaulted two women in 2016.
Rackauckas claimed the California couple concocted a manipulative scheme using their “good looks and charm to lower the inhibitions of their potential prey.”
He said Robicheaux and Riley would then lure vulnerable women to his swanky Newport Beach, California apartment where they would drug and rape the victims while they were unable to resist.
“We tend to trust doctors who take an oath to do no harm,” Rackauckas told reporters at the time. “The second defendant being a female is key. A woman purporting to be his girlfriend clearly played a significant role in disarming the victims, making them feel comfortable and safe.”
At a press conference in September 2018, he told reporters they had found “thousands” of video evidence depicting Robicheaux and Riley sexually assaulting women on the couple’s phones. Rackauckas urged more victims to come forward, claiming the evidence showed there could be “hundreds” or “more than a thousand” victims, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While Riley and Robicheaux admitted to engaging in threesomes with other women, they maintained that all of their sexual encounters were consensual. Their lawyers argued the couple were being misrepresented for their swinger lifestyle, in which they partied with drugs and group sex, often videotaping their trysts.
Robicheaux faced nine felony charges and was accused of assaulting seven women while Riley faced four felony charges with sexual misconduct accusations from five women. Their charges included rape by use of drugs, kidnap to commit rape, and oral copulation by anesthesia. Robicheaux and Riley both faced a maximum of life in state prison if convicted on all charges, according to the district attorney’s office. All of those charges have now been dropped.
Rackauckas admitted to using the case to help bolster his re-election campaign
While Rackauckas painted the couple as sexual predators, current Orange Country district attorney Todd Spitzer believed he was using the case to bolster his political profile leading up to his November 2018 re-election.
Rackauckas lost to Spitzer and later admitted to using the case for political gain in a sworn deposition on June 19, 2019.
Spitzer immediately ordered a re-evaluation of the case, assigning two veteran sexual assault prosecutors to review the case from “top to bottom,” including photographs, videos, audio recording, text messages, conversations on dating apps and social media accounts, and much more. They found none of the “incriminating” evidence Rackauckas claimed to have.
In his statement, Spitzer said the review exonerated the couple. Spitzer said he would drop all charges against the couple on Tuesday, after a team of investigators determined there was no “probable evidence” that Robicheaux and Riley committed any sexual offence.
“My sworn duty as the elected district attorney is not to secure convictions,” Spitzer said. “My sworn duty is to pursue justice and ensure that the rights of victims and defendants are protected.
Rackauckas, in his own statement, didn’t deny Spitzer’s allegations but said he felt bad for the women who gave evidence to authorities.
“It’s hard for them to make these reports about things that were so very humiliating in the first place [and] then have to relive the pain,” Rackauckas said. “Certainly, any prosecutor should think long and hard before dismissing such a case where multiple women have independently come forward.”
Robicheaux and Riley’s attorney says the damage has been done
Although Robicheaux and Riley are relieved they no longer have this “sentence hanging over their head,” Cohen said, their lives have been irreparably damaged by the allegations made against them.
“It is beyond words to try to describe what has been done to them and what they have gone through. It’s a travesty and I think that’s an understatement,” Cohen said.
Prior to the charges, Cohen said Robicheaux was a successful surgeon. Now, he is no longer able to practice after losing his medical licence when news of the case broke.
“I don’t know if he’ll get patients back. He’ll always be seen as the rapist doctor. There’s a pervasion of guilt when you’re convicted of a crime in this country – and that’s a presumption that is impossible to overcome,” Cohen added.
Some of the victims who came forward still maintain they were assaulted by the California couple. Michael Fell, an attorney representing some of the victims, told the Los Angeles Times that his client was “devastated” that her alleged assailants would not be held accountable.
“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 told the Times.
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