California DA Drops ‘Manufactured’ Charges Against Couple Accused of 1,000 Assaults

This undated booking photo provided by the Newport Beach, Calif., Police Department shows Cerissa Laura Riley, 31. She and a co-defendant, Grant W. Robicheaux, 38, a California doctor who appeared in a reality TV dating show, have been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting two women, and authorities suspect there …
Newport Beach Police Department via AP

District Attorney Todd Spitzer dropped all charges against Grant Robicheaux and girlfriend Cerissa Riley after finding no “provable” evidence.

“The prior District Attorney and his chief of staff manufactured this case and repeatedly misstated the evidence,” Orange Country District Attorney Todd Spitzer said, “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’s fiery statement laid the blame for the miscarriage of justice at the feet of his predecessor, Tony Rackauckas. He said that his investigation showed no evidence of the crimes of which the couple was accused. “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 announced.

At a September 2018 press conference, Rackauckas claimed investigators had “hundreds” of incriminating videos lifted from Robicheaux and Riley’s phones, and said he “thought” there could be as many as 1,000. But when his successor ordered a complete case review, he could not find a single one. Spitzer said he was “appalled.”

Once Spitzer and his team reviewed the case, his fears were confirmed: “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,” Spitzer said.

Robicheaux responded via a statement from his attorney. “I don’t want to be overly dramatic or hyperbolic, but the mere filing of this case has destroyed irreparably two lives,” defense lawyer Philip Cohen told reporters on Robicheaux’s behalf. “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.”

Riley’s attorney, Michael Fell, agreed. “For somebody to report, for them to go through what she had to go through with the police,” he said, “for the district attorney’s office to file criminal charges, for her to have to be patient the last two years while the case is being prosecuted, only for it to be dropped — she’s going to be devastated.”

Both defendants have stuck to their claims that while they were “swingers,” all sexual interactions were consensual. They also blew the whistle on Rackauckas himself, claiming that the entire show was purpose-built to bolster his reelection campaign. An unsealed deposition confirmed that the former DA thought he could benefit from the publicity.

Both defendants have been cleared of all charges, including both kidnapping and rape. If convicted, they could have spent the rest of their lives in prison. Now all that is left is to pick up the pieces and try to move forward. At the time of this writing, Rackauckas has yet to respond.

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