(CN) – A California judge on Friday put off deciding whether to grant prosecutors’ request to drop criminal charges against a California surgeon and his girlfriend who are accused of drugging and sexually assaulting seven women after gaining fame appearing on a reality TV show.
According to a criminal complaint filed in 2018, Grant Robicheaux, 39, and Cerissa Riley, 32, of Newport Beach lured women to their home and used drugs and anesthesia to incapacitate and rape them. Then-Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas claimed at the time up to 1,000 women may have been harmed by the pair and urged victims to come forward.
Rackauckas’ office filed felony rape and drug charges after claiming a search warrant executed on Robicheaux’s home uncovered video evidence of thousands of women being sexually assaulted by the pair.
Robicheaux and Riley – who both appeared on the Bravo TV program “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male” – faced up to life in state prison if convicted on all charges.
But current Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said this week his office would move to drop all criminal charges after finding no evidence the pair drugged or sexually assaulted anyone.
At a hearing Friday before Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones, county prosecutors said a review of the case showed key video evidence of drugging and sexual assault didn’t exist and that the charges were politically motivated.
Jones said he will take prosecutors’ request into consideration as he reviews the evidence before making a decision on whether to grant dismissal of all charges against Robicheaux and Riley.
In a statement, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said it welcomes the chance to give the judge a complete briefing of the evidence in the case.
“Asking the court to agree to a motion to dismiss on already filed serious criminal charges is a great and important burden. Once filed, this is the court’s decision based on our request. I am more than pleased to share the evaluation of the entire case so that Judge Jones can do justice in his decision,” said Spitzer. “Judge Jones has been involved in this case from its inception and it is completely reasonable that he would want a thorough understanding of the facts.”
Spitzer said in a statement this week that investigators also determined that not a single independent witness came forward to claim they saw Robicheaux and Riley sexually assault any women.
“My sworn duty as the elected district attorney is not to secure convictions,” Spitzer said in the statement. “My sworn duty is to pursue justice and ensure that the rights of victims and defendants are protected.
Spitzer said he ordered a review of the case in July 2019 after Rackauckas acknowledged in a sworn deposition a month earlier that he had used the case to garner media attention to help his 2018 re-election campaign.
Spitzer – a former state lawmaker and member of the Orange County Board of Supervisor – defeated Rackauckas in a heated race in the region between Los Angeles and San Diego counties.
“The prior district attorney and his chief of staff manufactured this case and repeatedly misstated the evidence to lead the public and vulnerable women to believe that these two individuals plied up to 1,000 women with drugs and alcohol in order to sexually assault them – and videotape the assaults,” Spitzer’s office said in a statement.
Rackauckas did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Attorneys for the alleged victims did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Spitzer’s announcement.
In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday, Robicheaux said his medical license was suspended after he was criminally charged and that he and Riley had to move from their home after receiving threats.
Thomas M. Ferlauto, Robicheaux and Riley’s attorney in the civil lawsuit in which Rackauckas’ deposition was taken, said in a statement to Courthouse News he was thankful for Spitzer’s action.
“He made a very courageous decision,” said Ferlauto, who is based in Irvine, California. “It was the right decision, but one that might expose him to criticism. Grant and Cerissa’s lives were destroyed by the prior administration’s misuse of the justice system. I hope they can pick up the pieces and move forward with their lives.”