Spitzer Defends His Distribution of Sealed Document

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer today defended his decision to hand out a sealed search warrant to reporters covering the case against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend accused of drugging and raping several women as legal and proper.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas on Wednesday slammed Spitzer for distributing the “extremely sensitive information about the rape victims and the defendants,” and prosecutors joined defense attorneys in bringing the “violation” to the attention of Orange County Superior Court Judge Greg Jones, who is presiding over the case against surgeon Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend, Cerissa Riley.

Spitzer is a political opponent of Rackauckas, running to unseat him as district attorney in next month's election.

Jones ordered reporters to not “further disseminate” the search warrant information and “return the sealed item” back to the judge, according to Rackauckas' office.

The search warrant was not initially sealed. Media organizations such as the Los Angeles Times obtained it from court records before the judge sealed it.

Spitzer said he spoke with Jones over the phone about the issue on Wednesday.

“I said it was provided to me from the court file,” he said. “It was a public record and he acknowledged he knew it was not (initially) sealed and that other people had it.”

Jones said prosecutors “wanted a hearing,” Spitzer said, adding that he told the judge, “I'd get back to him.”

Spitzer said he subsequently consulted with his campaign's attorney, who advised him he did nothing wrong. He noted that he redacted what he felt were sensitive parts of the search warrant to which the public should not have access.

“I've reviewed the case law and it was unequivocally a public record and the judge acknowledged to the media that already had information that there was nothing he could do about what was already released,” Spitzer said.

UC Irvine law professor Henry Weinstein agreed.

“You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube,” Weinstein said. “The whole idea of, first of all, sealing something that has been written about is absurd and it is contradictory to 1st Amendment principles in this country.”

Weinstein added that anyone could read the news reports detailing information in the search warrant anyway.

“So in what sense is the document meaningfully sealed?” Weinstein said. “Certainly, whatever they deemed worthy of printing they printed the first time around.”

The District Attorney's Office asked reporters to “comply with the judge's order and not distribute the sealed materials to protect the rape victims, defendants' constitutional rights, and the integrity of the case.”

Spitzer said he thought it was important to release the search warrant to make his case that Rackauckas was either “incompetent or lying” when he said at his first news conference on the case last month that he had learned of it a couple of weeks prior to the news conference.

Spitzer also has been making the case that law enforcement should have arrested the defendants in January after they had seized money, drugs and guns from their residence, which would have been long after the first rape allegation was made in April 2016.

“The search warrant proves two really important points -- that the detective described the two suspects as sexual predators and that she believed there were more victims,” Spitzer said. “So, of course, Mr. Rackauckas wants that search warrant sealed because he doesn't want people to know the truth, and the only person who exposed that is me.”

Newport Beach Police Detective Marie Gamble said in the search warrant that the two initial alleged victims, one in April 2016, and the other in October 2016, immediately reported the incidents to investigators, “but later were unwilling to participate in the investigation.”

In the search warrant, police request access to the defendants' computers and devices to seek additional evidence.

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