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Judge dismisses some charges in rape case against Newport Beach doctor and his girlfriend

An Orange County Superior Court judge on Wednesday dismissed some of the criminal charges against a Newport Beach doctor and his girlfriend who were accused of drugging and raping seven women, after prosecutors indicated that two of the alleged victims no longer want to be involved in the high-profile case.

Judge Steve Bromberg approved a request by the California Attorney General’s Office to dismiss charges related to the  women, writing in a court order that “after 2 1/2 years, these ladies are entitled to leave the case if they so wish,” and noting that a state prosecutor described them as having been “dragged through the mud” and “grossly mistreated.”

Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley initially were charged with drugging and raping seven women. In May, prosecutors made a request to dramatically scale back the criminal case, asking to dismiss charges related to all but one, or possibly two, alleged victims.

Bromberg has not yet decided whether to allow prosecutors to dismiss the charges related to the other women. At least one of those women reportedly indicated at some point that she also no longer wants to be involved in the case, but the judge noted that there are still “too many unanswered questions” regarding whether she still feels that way.

In 2018, then-District Attorney Tony Rackauckas accused Robicheaux and Riley of meeting women at restaurants and bars in Newport Beach before drugging them and luring them to Robicheaux’s apartment to sexually assault them. The couple repeatedly denied the allegations.

Last year, current-District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with the case. He accused Rackauckas, a political rival, of mishandling the investigation and his prosecutors in court papers described Robicheaux and Riley as swingers whose sexual encounters and drug use was consensual.

Attorneys representing most of the women fought back against the request to dismiss the charges, accusing Spitzer of colluding with Robicheaux and Riley to sabotage the case.

Last year, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones refused to move forward with what he described as a “backdoor dismissal” of the case, writing that the women deserved their day in court.

Judge Jones also took the rare step of removing local prosecutors from the case and transferring it to the California Attorney General’s Office.

State prosecutors have acknowledged that the case has become a “political firestorm.” During recent hearings they have told the judge that they weren’t saying they don’t believe the women, but have instead determined they cannot prove the criminal allegations they are trying to drop.

Bromberg, during a hearing last month, questioned whether prosecutors with the California Attorney General’s Office have the “comfort level” to try such a case in Orange County Superior Court.

If the judge were to deny the request to dismiss some of the remaining charges, there is disagreement about what could happen if the attorney general’s office then decides to walk away from the case.

Attorneys for the women say the judge has the power to appoint an independent prosecutor to take over the case, and the judge has indicated that would be an option. But prosecutors with the attorney general’s office, as well as defense attorneys representing Robicheaux and Riley, have argued the judge does not have that power.

A hearing for Robicheaux and Riley had been set for July 20, but will need to be rescheduled due to a time conflict with an upcoming trial, the judge wrote in his order Wednesday.


Source: Orange County Register

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