A judge approved a request on Thursday to drop most of the case against a man and his girlfriend who were accused of drugging and raping multiple women, paring it down to charges related to just two alleged victims.
Grant Robicheaux, a surgeon once locally dubbed "bachelor of the year" and whose dating escapades were featured on a Bravo reality show, was originally accused by seven women of crimes including rape and sexual assault. Prosecutors alleged that Robicheaux, often with the help of his girlfriend, Cerissa Riley, lured the women in, then drugged them, and raped them. Robicheaux's original 16 felony charges involved seven alleged victims, and Riley was charged in connection with five alleged victims.
Robicheaux and Riley no longer face rape charges. An amended complaint charged them with kidnapping to commit a sexual offense and two counts of assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, as well as other charges related to administering or possessing drugs. Robicheaux additionally faces weapons charges in connection with guns allegedly found at his home.
Mike Fell, attorney for one of the victims, Jane Doe 1, told BuzzFeed News this his client is looking for Robicheaux and Riley to be held accountable.
"I think she's satisfied that we are where we are today, which is seeing the attorney general's office going forward with criminal prosecution as it relates to her victimization," he said.
Last week, Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank Ospino listened to arguments from attorneys for the defendants and alleged victims in addition to the prosecutors. One alleged victim told the judge she was "exhausted" by the case's yearslong trajectory.
In the nearly three years since the initial charges were filed, the case has become mired in a political fight between the former and current district attorney. After bouncing around the court system, prosecution was put in the hands of the state attorney general's office, whose attorneys said at least three of the alleged victims no longer wanted to be involved in the high-profile case after being "dragged through the mud," by the Orange County district attorney's office and that almost all charges should be dropped.
The attorney general's office did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
On July 14, Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg agreed to drop charges related to two of the women, saying they were entitled to leave the case if they wished. In yet another twist, Bromberg then abruptly recused himself from the case, putting the matter in the hands of Ospino.
Prosecutors previously told Bromberg they wanted to reduce charges to only one alleged victim, but then indicated to Opsino they decided to limit charges to two victims instead, CBS reported. A preliminary hearing is set to be held before the end of the year.
It was the latest development in an unprecedented and at times politicized case.
The California Attorney General's Office had taken it on after a judge removed the Orange County District Attorney's Office from its prosecution, ruling that District Attorney Todd Spitzer as well as his predecessor and political rival, Tony Rackauckas, had used the criminal case for their own political aspirations, creating "a minefield of legal hazards in this case."
The case was originally filed in September 2018 while Rackauckas was still in office, prompting national headlines. At that time, Rackauckas said investigators were digging through hundreds of pieces of video evidence — then incorrectly answered a question by saying that there could be as many as 1,000 victims.
Spitzer, who was then campaigning to take Rackauckas's seat, also accused the sitting district attorney of delaying the arrest of the couple to generate media attention during the contentious election.
Rackauckas admitted that he expected media attention to help him in the election, but denied making any decision in the case because of it.
In February 2020, after Spitzer won the election, he announced he would move to have all charges dropped against Robicheaux and Riley. During a shocking press conference, the prosecutor apologized to the couple and questioned the credibility of the victims.
Spitzer also accused his predecessor of manufacturing the case while they were in the middle of a contentious campaign.
At that time, another judge refused to drop the charges, calling the prosecutor's allegations "ludicrous" and questioned Spitzer's own motives for trying to dismiss charges.
“The political actions of Mr. Spitzer have also been problematic," Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones wrote in his June 2020 ruling.
The entire handling of the case, said two victims who spoke to BuzzFeed News, has been bungled over the political fight between two men trying to win an election.
"I didn't know what this was," one of the women told BuzzFeed News last year, "that it was going to be a political circus, that I would fall on the backside of it and be forgotten about."