Charges to be dropped against reality TV surgeon, girlfriend accused of drugging and raping women

California

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors are planning to drop rape and kidnapping charges against a California doctor who appeared in a reality TV dating show and his girlfriend after saying that key video evidence didn’t actually exist.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer will ask a judge in Newport Beach, California, on Friday to dismiss the case against orthopedic surgeon Grant Robicheaux — who previously appeared on a Bravo TV show called “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male” — and his girlfriend Cerissa Riley.

Spitzer conducted a review of the charges filed by his predecessor Tony Rackauckas after accusing him of using the high-profile case to drum up publicity during the pair’s contentious electoral campaigns.

Spitzer said videos that Rackauckas announced to the media in September 2018 didn’t actually depict sex crimes and that the accusers’ accounts couldn’t be corroborated sufficiently to prove the charges in court.

The decision has devastated accusers, who said the move will discourage women from reporting sexual assault.

“It’s just absurd for him to say, ‘we are going to dismiss all these charges because there is no video.’ There’s never video,” said Dan Gilleon, an attorney for one accuser who has sued the defendants.

“Like many district attorneys, he says he is a champion of victims to get elected, but that is just a bunch of phony campaign speech. His actions show that he could not care less about these victims,” Gilleon said.

Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, refuted the comments and said the lawsuit filed by Gilleon had been used against the victims of the alleged criminal case.

The case grabbed headlines shortly before Spitzer was elected district attorney in the coastal county wedged between Los Angeles and San Diego, taking over an office rocked by a jailhouse informant scandal.

The investigation 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 were notified there was a DNA match for evidence from a rape kit. The match wasn’t to the defendants, but it led the office to the police reports, Spitzer said.

In January 2018, authorities searched Robicheaux’s home in the upscale community of Newport Beach and found drugs, guns and photos and videos. In September 2018, Rackauckas held a news conference to announce the case and said investigators were sifting through thousands of videos and images, some that showed women who were barely responsive.

His comments drew media attention, and the next month, prosecutors filed additional charges on behalf of five more accusers.

After Gilleon’s client filed the civil suit, Rackauckas was deposed and told lawyers, according to Spitzer, that he had hoped the charges against the doctor and his girlfriend would draw publicity during his re-election campaign.

Spitzer asked the state Attorney General’s office to take over the prosecution, citing fear of a conflict of interest, but was told he should proceed. After his review, he announced Tuesday he had decided to drop the charges, saying the evidence was insufficient.

Rackauckas didn’t return a message left earlier this week about the allegations.

Spitzer — a former state lawmaker who chaired a campaign for a California law giving victims more rights — said he would meet with accusers to review his decision if they wanted before Friday. He also urged sexual assault victims to submit rape kits to help prosecute more cases.

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