Attorney General’s Office takes high-profile Newport Beach rape case from O.C. DA
The California Attorney General’s Office indicated on Thursday it has not yet decided whether to move forward with the high-profile prosecution of a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend accused of drugging and raping seven women after a judge last week took the rare step of removing the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from the case.
Deputy Attorney General Mike Murphy, during a hearing at the Newport Beach courthouse, told Judge Gregory Jones that he has received from local prosecutors a voluminous amount of evidence tied to the criminal case against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley and needs time to review it.
Attorney Philip Cohen, who represents Robicheaux, had asked if the State Attorney General’s Office had decided whether to prosecute the couple.
“It seems to me that is the first step,” Cohen said.
“I can’t say for sure what direction we will go with this case,” Murphy responded.
“I would expect that answer,” the judge said. “At this point, you haven’t even opened the book, so to speak.”
In 2018, then-District Attorney Tony Rackauckas accused the couple of meeting women at restaurants and bars in Newport Beach, drugging them, and then luring them back to Robicheaux’s apartment to sexually assault them.
Local prosecutors have since reversed course, arguing that the couple are swingers, whose sexual encounters and drug use was consensual.
The current district attorney, Todd Spitzer, attempted to dismiss the criminal charges, citing a lack of evidence and accusing his predecessor of manufacturing the case for political purposes. The judge refused, noting that the case should go before a jury and not be dropped as part of a “back-room dismissal.”
The decisions to not dismiss the case and to turn it over to the state rather than to local prosecutors was applauded by attorneys representing alleged victims. Those attorneys have accused defense lawyers and local prosecutors of having harassed, lied to and publicly shamed the women.
The defense has asked for a quick move to a preliminary hearing, where a judge would decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial. A tentative date for that hearing was set for Oct. 13.