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3 women want out of rape case against California doctor and his girlfriend, prosecutor says

Three women who accused a Newport Beach doctor and his girlfriend of drugging and raping them no longer want to be involved in the high-profile criminal case against the couple after they were “drug through the mud” by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, a state prosecutor said during a court hearing on Friday, June 11.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven D. Bromberg indicated that he was not ready yet to rule on a request by the California Attorney General’s Office to dramatically scale back the case against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley.

In a motion filed with the court last month, the Attorney General’s Office indicated it wanted to dismiss five counts of rape and three counts of kidnapping, effectively scaling the allegations back to a single victim as opposed to the seven women the couple is currently charged with sexually assaulting.

A subsequent request to alter the criminal complaint was filed under seal, keeping it private, but during discussion in court on Friday prosecutors indicated they want to move forward with criminal charges related to the one alleged victim and may decide to proceed with charges related to a second woman.

The three women who no longer want to be involved in the case “had an elected official who was supposed to advocate on their behalf drag them through the mud,” Deputy Attorney General Yvette Martinez said in an apparent reference to Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “They were grossly mistreated.”

Law enforcement officials in previous statements filed with the court have indicated that at least some of the victims have at times not been cooperative with investigators. It is not clear if the alleged victims cited in court Friday as no longer wanting to be involved are those same women.

Judge Bromberg sharply questioned the AG’s prosecutors, at one point raising concerns about whether they had the “comfort level” to try a such a case in Orange County Superior Court. Even if some of the women didn’t want to testify, the judge noted, investigators could take the stand to relay what the alleged victims had initially told law enforcement.

“With the exception of one alleged victim, at least from the first review I have undertaken of the facts, they all seem to have the same or similar history of what they say occurred with both defendants,” the judge told the prosecutors. “It is almost like a playbook. And these folks (defendants) never knew each other.”

The judge also accused the prosecutors of making “veiled threats” to the court by apparently arguing in their sealed written motion that he doesn’t have the power to appoint an independent prosecutor should the State Attorney General’s Office disagree with his decision on the charges and walk away from the case. The prosecutors said they did not intend for that to be a threat.

In 2018, then-District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, in a widely covered news conference, accused Robicheaux and Riley of meeting women at restaurants and bars in Newport Beach, then drugging them and luring them to Robicheaux’s apartment to sexually assault them.

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

Attorneys representing most of the women criticized the attempts to dismiss the charges. The victims’ attorneys also accused Spitzer of colluding with Robicheaux and Riley’s attorneys to sabotage the case.

Deputy Attorney General Mary Strickland said her office is trying to “free this case from the Rackauckas/Spitzer circus it has become entangled with.”

Both the former and the current district attorney have said their offices handled the case appropriately.

Attorney Philip Cohen, who is representing Robicheaux, alleged there was an unfair presumption with the court that the original criminal complaint filed under Rackauckas was correct but the dismissal requested under Spitzer and the current request by the state Attorney General’s Office are wrong.

“It is clear from the tone, the tenor of the language of this court toward the (Attorney General’s Office) – there appears to be an animus, and I don’t know why,” Cohen said.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones last year declined to agree to what he described as a “backdoor dismissal” of the case, writing that the alleged victims deserved their day in court. He took the rare step of removing local prosecutors and transferring the case to the California Attorney General’s Office.

Judge Bromberg indicated that he expects to rule on whether to allow the State Attorney General’s Office to dismiss many of the charges on July 10.

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