NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A California judge on Friday declined to immediately dismiss rape and kidnapping charges against a doctor who appeared on a reality TV show and his girlfriend even as prosecutors said they don't have enough evidence to prove the case.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones said he needed to learn more about the evidence against Grant Robicheaux — who previously appeared on a Bravo TV show called “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male” —and Cerissa Riley to determine if dismissing the case is “in the furtherance of justice.” He noted guns and drugs were found on a search of the surgeon's Newport Beach home.
Jones asked for prosecutors, defense lawyers and attorneys for two accusers to brief him and said he would rule April 3 on District Attorney Todd Spitzer's request to drop the case. Spitzer has accused his predecessor of using the case to draw publicity during the pair's contentious election campaigns.
“Politics have infected this case, and mixing politics with prosecution gives you a toxic cocktail, and that is part of the problem here,” Jones said during a hearing in Newport Beach, California.
The hearing came three days after Spitzer called a news conference and announced he wanted to drop the charges filed against the pair in 2018 because key video evidence that had been touted by the former district attorney didn't show a crime.
Authorities previously said Robicheaux and Riley plied their victims with drugs and sexually assaulted them when they were incapable of resisting.
Spitzer's plan to drop the charges has dismayed the pair's accusers, two of whom had statements read in court. One said she didn't understand how no evidence could exist when seven women who don't know each other are describing being raped by the same man. Now a lawyer herself, she asked the court how often sexual assault is recorded on video.
“I assure you, Your Honor, there was nothing unsure about the moment I was raped,” she wrote in a stinging letter read aloud in court. “I know what happened to me, and I firmly believe there is powerful evidence of a crime.”
The case dates back to 2016, when police took reports of two incidents in Newport Beach but didn't refer them for prosecution. The following year, prosecutors said they were notified there was a DNA match for evidence from a rape kit for one of those incidents. It was not for the defendants, but it led the office to the police reports, Spitzer said.
In September 2018, then-District Attorney Tony Rackauckas held a news conference to announce the case on behalf of two victims and said investigators were sifting through thousands of videos and images, some that showed women who were barely responsive. His comments grabbed media headlines, and the next month prosecutors filed additional charges on behalf of five more accusers.
Spitzer said last year Rackauckas said in a civil deposition he had hoped the charges would draw publicity during his reelection campaign.
Spitzer, who had long accused Rackauckas of using the case to help his campaign, asked the Attorney General's office to take over the prosecution, citing fear of a conflict of interest. But he was told he should proceed and said he had attorneys in his office conduct an exhaustive review of the case before reaching his decision to seek a dismissal.
After the hearing, Spitzer said he welcomed the opportunity to brief the judge on what he found. Defense lawyer Philip Cohen said the judge's decision was surprising but the review would strengthen what he believed would be an eventual decision for the case to be dismissed.
“We are absolutely confident as to how this case is going to resolve,” Cohen told reporters.