Charges have been dropped against an Orange County, California, surgeon and his girlfriend who were accused of drugging and raping upwards of 1,000 women.
In 2018, orthopedic surgeon Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend Cerissa Riley, a substitute teacher, were accused of luring women to their home in Newport Beach, drugging them until they were unconscious, and then raping them. In September 2018, then-district attorney Tony Rackauckas said during a press conference that investigators had “hundreds” of videos taken from the couple’s phones showing evidence that they had drugged and raped the women and then filmed the crimes. He was asked during that press conference whether the number could approach one thousand, and Rackauckas said, “I think so.”
Rackauckas lost his re-election bid a few months later. The new DA, Todd Spitzer, decided to re-investigate the case after he saw an unsealed deposition from Rackauckas explaining that he hoped the case against Robicheaux and Riley would help him get re-elected.
“A team of prosecutors with a combined 175 years of experience determined there is no provable evidence that Robicheaux and Riley committed any sexual offense,” said in a press release quoted by The Daily Beast.
The resulting investigation found no evidence to support the charges against the surgeon and his girlfriend. Further, Spitzer accused his predecessor of manufacturing the case.
“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 said in a statement.
“As a result of the complete case review I ordered beginning in July, we now know that there was not a single video or photograph depicting an unconscious or incapacitated woman being sexually assaulted,” he added.
Also at the news conference, Spitzer said that while he “didn’t create this situation but it’s my responsibility to fix it.”
“Doing justice is not always pretty. It’s not pleasant many times. This is not pleasant at all,” he added, according to CNN. “But these are important decisions that affect people’s lives.”
A defense attorney for the couple, Philip Cohen, told reporters that while he didn’t “want to be overly dramatic or hyperbolic,” the “mere filing of this case has destroyed irreparably two lives.”
“He has become persona non grata with an entire city, an entire state—and I don’t want to be exaggerating—but probably an entire country,” he added.
The couple, along with their attorneys, repeatedly denied the allegations against them, saying the sex was consensual and that they were swingers.
For his part, Rackauckas said in a statement to CNN that he believed the accusers based on the evidence he had.
“I just feel terrible for the women who had the courage to come forward and give their evidence to the authorities in this case,” his said in the statement.
“It’s hard for them to make these reports about things that were so very humiliating in the first place then have to relive the pain,” he added. “Certainly, any prosecutor should think long and hard before dismissing such a case where multiple women have independently come forward and subjected themselves to the hard process of (baring) their souls to the authorities.”