Judge: Attorneys for Newport Beach doctor, girlfriend accused of drugging, raping 7 women can’t get access to internal communications from prosecutors
An Orange County Superior Court judge has denied attorneys for a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend, who are accused of drugging and raping seven women, access to internal correspondence from prosecutors.
The defense request came amid months worth of pretrial jockeying over hundreds, potentially more than a thousand, videos collected from Grant William Robicheaux and Cerissa Laura Riley that prosecutors initially alleged might contain footage of the couple having sex with intoxicated women.
Robicheaux and Riley have denied the charges, contending that no non-consensual sexual contact occurred.
Attorneys for the couple have alleged in court filings that references to the videos during several September press conferences by then-District Attorney Tony Rackauckas led to widespread attention for the case, tainting the jury pool.
“Such attention resulted in a virtually unprecedented amount of national and international attention, which very quickly led the world to label, vilify and convict Robicheaux and Riley as record-setting rapists, before one piece of testimony had ever been heard,” their attorneys wrote in a court filing earlier this year.
During a confusing back and forth with reporters at one of the September press conference, Rackauckas responded to a question regarding how many videos of different victims prosecutors had in their possession by saying “many,” then, when asked a followup question about whether it was “more than a thousand,” saying “I think so.”
Whether Rackauckas was referring to the number of videos or victims was unclear from that exchange, although prosecutors later noted that they didn’t know how many potential victims there were.
Weeks after the press conferences, prosecutors acknowledged in court that they had only looked at a fraction of the footage, their efforts slowed by the possibility that some of the electronic evidence belonging to Robicheaux, an orthopedic surgeon, could potentially be covered by doctor-patient confidentiality.
In a recent court filing, prosecutors argued that by requesting internal communications regarding the videos, the defense attorneys were not seeking material that would exonerate their clients, but instead were taking part in a “fishing expedition.”
“Defendants have made claims for which they have no evidence other than a poorly worded answer to a question at a press conference, which was later corrected on many occasions,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Lockhart wrote.
In a written ruling released this week denying the defense attorneys’ requests for the internal communication, Judge Gregory Jones referred to comments made during the press conference as “unfortunate prosecutorial hyperbole.”
“The defense contends, and it appears the people concede, the subject statements by Rackauckas were incorrect,” the judge wrote. “Will Rogers is credited with the famous quote ‘Never miss a good chance to shut up.’”
The couple’s attorneys have indicated they ultimately plan to file a motion requesting the case against the pair be dismissed due to outrageous government conduct.