SANTA ANA (CNS) - An Orange County Superior Court judge today approved a request by prosecutors to reduce charges against a Newport Beach hand surgeon and his girlfriend, who were accused of drugging and raping multiple women.
The move means Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley now face charges involving only two alleged victims. The 40-year-old Robicheaux had previously been facing charges involving five alleged victims, and Riley, 34, was charged in connection with three alleged victims.
There were a total of 13 accusers, some of whom could be used by prosecutors as further evidence of a pattern of behavior.
Prosecutors with the state Attorney General's Office had previously indicated that they wanted to reduce charges to just one alleged victim. But last week, they told Judge Frank Ospino they decided to narrow it down to two victims instead.
The case was reassigned to the Attorney General's Office last year after Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones refused District Attorney Todd Spitzer's request to dismiss the case and cited the politics interjected into the case in a tense election between Spitzer and his predecessor, Tony Rackauckas.
In a daylong hearing last Thursday, Ospino heard arguments from attorneys for the alleged victims and defendants, as well as the prosecutors.
One alleged victim told Ospino she was “exhausted'' by the twists and turns in the case over the past three years, including the recent surprise decision by Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg to recuse himself from the case.
“This case is a complete travesty,'' the woman told the judge.
She accused defense team investigators of “harassing'' her and her family.
“I'm exhausted because I've already begged another judge to not dismiss my case,'' she said, referring to her statement to a previous judge overseeing it.
She said she told the defendants she did not want to have sex with them, “But somehow that's not enough evidence. It doesn't make sense.''
The woman said prosecutors have indicated there are “holes in my case,'' but they have not interviewed her about her complaint.
“I'm also enraged that seven rape victims cannot find a prosecutor in Orange County or the state who have the audacity to try a serial rapist,'' the woman said.
Ospino spent a good portion of the hearing last week focusing on explosive allegations in a motion filed by attorney Matt Murphy, a retired Orange County prosecutor who represents five accusers in the case.
Since the state prosecutors took over the case, “none of the victims have recanted, no alibi witnesses have appeared, and all six women represented by Marsy's Law counsel are still desirous of prosecution,'' Murphy wrote in a June 4 filing.
“From the victims' perspective, responsibility for the contentious nature of this litigation lies squarely with a district attorney who continues to place his own political self-interests above the rules of ethics and the rights of victims,'' Murphy wrote.
Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office, brushed off Murphy's criticism.
“Mr. Murphy continues to make unfounded allegations in this case,'' Edds said earlier. “Instead of his spurious, self-serving declarations, we look forward to hearings under oath in a court of law.''
Murphy faulted the Attorney General's Office for “a series of errors, well-intentioned as they may have been,'' in the case.
Murphy asked Bromberg to refuse to let prosecutors dismiss charges in the case, which would have left the Attorney General's Office unable to proceed and prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Even though Spitzer's office is off the case, Murphy said, “In short, Mr. Spitzer, it seems, simply cannot let this case go.''
Spitzer, Murphy argued, “has continued to burst through any ‘ethical screen' that may have been erected, and the Attorney General, it seems, has provided Mr. Spitzer a welcome, if reluctant, audience.''
Murphy accused Spitzer of “repeatedly contacting the Attorney General's Office'' about the case despite his office's disqualification from it. Spitzer “then withheld discovery from the Attorney General's Office for several months, and what had been provided was sent over in an ‘unorganized fashion,''' Murphy said.
When one alleged victim filed a complaint against Spitzer with the State Bar, Spitzer “again contacted the Attorney General's Office and informed them he would now make himself available to the defense to impeach the credibility of the complaining victim,'' Murphy said.
Deputy Attorney General Mary Strickland said her office has done an “exhaustive'' review and dedicated four prosecutors who mostly worked just on this case for about a year, which she said was “unheard of.''
Strickland said the prosecutors were “unanimous'' in concluding that they did not have enough evidence to prove cases “beyond a reasonable doubt'' for all but two of the alleged victims.
Strickland denied that Spitzer had any impact on their decision.
“I'm not sure I would recognize him if I saw him on the street,'' Strickland said.
Ospino said he was not put off by any contact the Attorney General's Office had with Spitzer's office while taking over the case, but he wanted to know more about an allegation that Spitzer called state prosecutors and said he would make himself a witness for the defense attorneys in the case because one of their accusers had filed a complaint about Spitzer with the State Bar.
Spitzer told Julie Garland of the Attorney General's Office that he felt he needed to tell her about it because he wanted to question the woman's credibility, which would aid the defense, Garland said.
The woman told Ospino that all she did was file a complaint with the Bar that contained a copy of the ruling disqualifying Spitzer's Office from the case.
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