OC Judge Further Guts Poisoning Case Against Doctor, Girlfriend

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FULLERTON (CNS) - Prosecutors were dealt another legal setback Monday in the case against a Newport Beach hand surgeon and his girlfriend when an Orange County Superior Court judge granted a motion to dismiss charges alleging they drugged a woman.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael Leversen, however, gave prosecutors with the Attorney General's Office 10 days to refile charges against Dr. Grant Robicheaux, who turned 43 on Monday, and Cerissa Riley, 36. Prosecutors said they intend to do so.

During a hearing Monday, Leversen granted a demurrer motion that dismisses felony counts of poisoning and sale of phencyclidine against Robicheaux and Riley, and a felony count of sale or transport of cocaine against Riley.

Robicheaux still faces four misdemeanor charges of possession of a controlled substance -- psilocybin, Ecstasy, cocaine and GHB -- as well as two felony counts of possession of an assault weapon. With the judge granting the demurrer, Riley no longer faces any charges. A demurrer is a legal move to dismiss charges based on an argument that there's not enough facts to support the allegations.

On July 7, Leversen gutted much of the case after a preliminary hearing, dismissing charges that the pair had drugged and assaulted two women.

Robicheaux's attorney, Philip Cohen, argued Monday that the statute of limitations precludes prosecutors from pursuing remaining charges.

"The statute has run and (the new case) can't be attached to something that no longer" exists, Cohen argued.

Deputy Attorney General James Toohey argued, however, that prosecutors met the three-year deadline for filing the case. The dispute is about when the clock began ticking on prosecuting the filed case, which dates back to 2018.

In issuing his decision, the judge said, "The real question I have in front of me is counts one through three and whether they're sufficiently alleged, and they're not. The demurrer is sustained. But I'll give you leave to amend and that has to be done in 10 days."

Deputy Attorney General Namita Patel told Leversen, "Yes, your honor, we intend to file an amended information."

The attorneys will return to court Sept. 25 to consider another expected demurrer from defense attorneys.

The embattled case sparked headlines when it was filed, with then- Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas touting allegations that the reality TV personality Robicehaux and his girlfriend lured women they met at Newport Beach bars, drugged their drinks and sexually assaulted the victims.

It turned into a political football when now-Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer was running to unseat Rackauckas, and Spitzer criticized his predecessor's handling of the case.

Spitzer as a candidate questioned why Rackauckas waited as long as he did to file charges. After ordering a review of the case when he was elected the county's top prosecutor, Spitzer moved to drop the case. But when one of the alleged victims objected in court, that move was denied and Spitzer's office was eventually thrown off the case.

After the Attorney General's Office took over, the case was pared down. What began as a case that included a total of 13 accusers was eventually boiled down to two victims.

One of the judges involved in the case recused himself because he foresaw a potential conflict of interest. Another judge backed out of the case when his temperament was questioned by defense attorneys, and another judge died while overseeing it.

The defense attorneys failed in earlier attempts to have the case dismissed based on arguments of outrageous governmental conduct and defects in an original search warrant.

Patel indicated in court Monday that prosecutors are discussing a possible settlement with defense attorneys.

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