OC surgeon once accused of sexual assault pleads to gun and drug charges, bringing case to an end

City News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
OC surgeon once accused of sexual assault pleads to gun, drug charges
A legal saga is over for a Newport Beach surgeon who was originally accused with his girlfriend of sexually assaulting multiple women.

FULLERTON, Calif. (CNS) -- A Newport Beach hand surgeon who was originally accused with his girlfriend of drugging and sexually assaulting multiple women pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony gun-possession charge and a misdemeanor drug count, bringing an end to the long-running and convoluted case.

Under a plea deal, Dr. Grant Robicheaux, 43, was placed on one year of probation for the misdemeanor, which can later be dismissed if he successfully completes probation. He was sentenced to two years probation for the felony, which can be reduced to a misdemeanor after 16 months of successful probation and ultimately can be expunged from his record.

The resolution follows a hearing last month in which Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael Leversen agreed to dismiss felony charges of poisoning and sale of phencyclidine against Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley, 36.

A judge is dismissing most of the remaining charges against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend who were initially accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a series of women.

The move left no charges remaining against Riley, while Robicheaux was left only with a felony charge of possession of an assault weapon and four misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance, including GHB, more commonly known as the date-rape drug. As part of the plea deal, those remaining counts, including the GHB charge, were dismissed.

Leversen ordered Robicheaux to perform 32 hours of community service and to take 16 hours of drug-education classes.

There were six guns seized in the case by police, the doctor's attorney, Philip Cohen, said in court. Four were registered to Robicheaux's father and two were registered to the defendant. Two will be destroyed and the others are expected to be sent back to his father in Texas, the defense attorney said.

After the hearing, Cohen said he felt "relief'' that the case was finally settled.

"It's funny. The last time I spoke as to this case it was at a press conference 5 1/2 years ago, it was filled with cameras and reporters, and here we are 5 1/2 years later and it's just the three of you," Cohen said, referring to three print media reporters who covered Wednesday's hearing. Leversen has denied all requests for still or video cameras in the courtroom.

"Think about where we started," Cohen said. "He (Robicheaux) was (labeled) the most prolific rapist in history."

Cohen said his client's "professional life is done. His reputation is done. It's sad to see what allegations can do regardless of the outcome."

In the criminal justice system, although the law states a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, Cohen said, "There's a presumption of guilt that applies in every filing in a criminal case. ... You would like to think the process would work like it did here, but it doesn't. But even when the process does work like it did here he'll never get his name back."

Robicheaux "lost his house" and is living with Riley in an RV somewhere in Orange County, Cohen said. He can't even rent an apartment and can't work in his profession, Cohen said.

Robicheaux voluntarily agreed to a suspension of his medical license in the beginning of the case, Cohen said. Theoretically he could go back to work in the profession if the charges are ultimately expunged, but it appears unlikely he would get hired anywhere, Cohen said.

"Just Google his name," the defense attorney said.

Cohen said he remained on the case despite his client's inability to pay legal bills because, "This became a very important case to me. Grant and I have developed a relationship that will not be broken."

Cohen said Robicheaux will consider all of his legal options to clear his name with a civil suit, but the defense attorney said he was not an expert on that type of litigation and acknowledged some of the legal hurdles involved in suing prosecutors and law enforcement.

The last remaining accuser in the case wrote a victim impact statement for Wednesday's hearing, but it was filed under seal after a private discussion with the attorneys and Leversen. The woman's attorney, Sharon Tekolian, told Leversen that the Attorney General's Office refused to fly the woman to Fullerton from Israel, where she is serving as a commander in the military's war against Hamas.

"Jane Doe has worked on an impact statement for weeks," Tekolian said. "During a literal war in Israel she's fighting in. It's frustrating. My client is being silenced."

She faulted Cohen for indicating he would file a defamation lawsuit if the attorney read the impact statement into the record, which Cohen denied after the hearing.

"When words like defamation are being thrown around I have to do what I can to protect her," Tekolian said. "I can't expose her to any liability."

After the hearing, Cohen told reporters, "I'll leave what was said in chambers in chambers, but that's not what was said."

Tekolian also criticized the Attorney General's Office for keeping her "out of the loop'' on the plea negotiations.

Deputy Attorney General Namita Patel said in court she attempted to meet with the woman, but was unable to do so because of her situation in Israel.

"And not until this morning did we reach a negotiated plea," Patel said.

The woman was not considered a part of the case anymore because Leversen previously dismissed poisoning charges against the defendants, so she lacked standing as a victim under Marsy's Law.

The case began five years ago in the heat of a re-election bid by then-District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who held a widely covered news conference to announce the charges accusing Robicheaux and Riley of targeting women in bars and other settings, drugging them and sexually assaulting them.

The case quickly became a target of then-DA candidate Todd Spitzer, who criticized Rackauckas' handling of the case and questioned why Rackauckas did not move faster to file it -- suggesting the incumbent was using the matter for campaign publicity.

After he was elected, Spitzer called for an internal review of the case, assigned two new prosecutors to the matter and then moved to dismiss all of the charges. That drew protests from several of the alleged victims and an Orange County Superior Court judge refused to toss the case.

Spitzer's office was eventually recused from the case and the Attorney General's Office took over.

Robicheaux initially faced charges involving five alleged victims and Riley three alleged victims, but a prior Orange County Superior Court judge granted a motion from prosecutors to reduce the charges. There were initially a total of 13 accusers, some of whom prosecutors had planned to use as witnesses to show a pattern of behavior at trial.

By the time the case got to a preliminary hearing there were only two alleged victims.

After a roller-coaster ride of various court rulings, dismissals and revising of charges, only one alleged victim remained in the case -- a woman who initially began chatting with Robicheaux in 2016 via the Bumble app and said she trusted him because he was a doctor who once appeared on a TV show on Bravo. When she eventually met him, she was surprised when Riley came along since she thought she was going on a "date," but Robicheaux introduced Riley not as his girlfriend but as a "good friend from out of town."

Prosecutors argued that the pair spiked her drink, and the next thing she remembered was waking up at Robicheaux's house and being fondled in a sexual manner by the doctor and his girlfriend.

Leversen tossed out sexual assault charges following a July preliminary hearing, which left only the poisoning and drug possession charges remaining against the pair, which the judge dismissed in October.

The prosecutors had the option of dumping the case after the preliminary hearing and refiling charges, but declined to do so.