Ex-OC prosecutor urges judge: Don’t drop case against Newport Beach surgeon, girlfriend
A former top Orange County homicide prosecutor turned victims’ rights attorney sharply criticized efforts by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to drop criminal charges against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend accused of drugging and raping several women.
In a court filing on Friday submitted on behalf of three alleged victims, Matt Murphy – who was arguably the most recognizable homicide prosecutor in the county prior to leaving the DAs office late last year – wrote to Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones that a dismissal of the criminal case against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley would be a “disaster for justice.”
Murphy also alleged that attorneys for Robicheaux, 39, and Riley, 32, will “continue their campaign of harassment” against their accusers if the criminal case is dropped. Judge Jones has asked for more details before deciding whether to dismiss the charges, telling attorneys last week that while the “mix of politics and prosecution” has “infected” every step of the court process, he wants to focus on the evidence.
“These women have found themselves pawns in a political battle between two District Attorneys they have never met,” Murphy wrote. “They have been subjected to shocking procedural abuses during a collateral civil case to which they are neither parties nor witnesses; they have been harassed by the defense; they have been lied to; and now publicly shamed by the newly-elected District Attorney in whom they had no choice but to place their trust. And all of this, after enduring the severe emotional trauma of the underlying sexual abuse.”
Spitzer has said an exhaustive review of the case determined that there was “not a single piece of evidence or video or photo that shows an unconscious or incapacitated woman being sexually assaulted.” He has also accused his predecessor, Tony Rackauckas, of mishandling the case in an effort to bolster his failed re-election bid, an allegation Rackauckas has denied.
“I didn’t create this situation,” Spitzer said during a news conference last week. “But it is my responsibility to fix it.”
DA spokeswoman Kimberly Edds on Friday afternoon said Murphy had not provided them with a copy of his motion, so they could not comment on the arguments it contains.
Robicheaux and Riley have both denied that any non-consensual sex occurred. In an interview last week with ABC News, the two said they did nothing wrong, with Robicheaux describing it as “consenting adults that were having a great time.”
The couple’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment about Murphy’s court filing.
In an interview on Friday, one of the accusers – who are all referred to in court filings as “Jane Doe” – said she only learned of the decision to seek a dismissal of the charges minutes before it was publicly announced.
“My heart dropped,” the woman said. “I felt like someone pulled the rug from underneath me. It’s like getting sucker-punched, because there was no warning this would even be considered.
“I don’t understand how you have seven victim’s pointing to the same person and you don’t have enough evidence,” the woman added.
During a court hearing on Feb. 7, Deputy District Attorney Rick Zimmer, one of two prosecutors assigned to the case, told Judge Jones that “It’s not that we don’t believe” the victims, but that prosecutors had to weigh whether there was enough evidence to prove the case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
The judge has ordered prosecutors, defense attorneys and attorneys for the alleged victim’s to file briefs outlining the case under seal so he could see the full evidence before deciding whether to approve the request to dismiss charges. Spitzer has said he is “more than pleased” to share his office’s evaluation of the case with the judge, noting it was “completely reasonable he would want a thorough understanding of the facts.”
In his court filing, Murphy acknowledged that rape cases are often difficult, noting they can be “legally exacting, emotionally draining and require prosecutorial diligence and skill to achieve just results.” But along with the alleged victim’s who have stepped forward, Murphy wrote that 119 fluid grams of GHB, which he noted is well known as “the date rape drug,” was found at Robicheaux’s home.
“Perhaps (Spitzer) does not understand the strength of the evidence, or the emotional wreckage his chosen course of action has wrought upon these victims,” Murphy wrote. “Under previous administrations difficult sexual assault cases of this kind were routinely tried with great success.”
Murphy wrote that the state attorney general’s office could step in to prosecute the case, using either the Newport Beach Police Department – who originally handled the case – or the Orange County Grand Jury to investigate the allegations. Or, Murphy noted, the attorney general’s office could appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case.
The defendants have been ordered to return to court on April 3.