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Questions swirl about investigation of California couple accused of drugging and raping women

Questions are swirling about the pace of the investigation in the case of a California surgeon and his girlf...

Posted: Oct 25, 2018 8:13 AM
Updated: Oct 25, 2018 8:13 AM

Questions are swirling about the pace of the investigation in the case of a California surgeon and his girlfriend who are accused of drugging and raping multiple women.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has been leading the investigation. He said Dr. Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend Cerissa Riley were using their "good looks, charm" and drugs to lure women home to rape them while they were unconscious or semiconscious. The district attorney said there could be "hundreds" of victims because of the large amount of electronic data collected including videos and photos.

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Robicheaux and Riley have pleaded not guilty, and firmly denied all allegations. They are both currently out on $1 million bail.

"It has been our position from day one that all sex with all named victims and unnamed victims, it is Grant and Cerissa's absolute position that no non-consensual sex ever took place," defense attorney Philip Cohen said. "A not guilty plea is a denial of all allegations."

The couple next appears in court for a preliminary hearing on January 18.

Now the DA's political rival is asking why it took him so long to file charges and make an arrest -- two years after the couple's accusers filed police reports, and eight months after a search warrant for the couple's home was signed.

One of the reasons for the delay in arresting the couple was made clear in the search warrant documents. A detective says the victims stopped cooperating with police.

After the search warrant was eventually signed and executed, the DA twice agreed to let Robicheaux travel out of the country as long as he returned his passport to authorities afterward.

In court, Cohen, argued that the DA must not have thought his client was that dangerous or a flight risk because the DA had allowed Robicheaux to travel to Canada for a conference and Robicheaux and Riley were allowed to go on a trip together in Europe even after their home had been searched and large amounts of potential evidence had been seized.

"He went to Europe with permission from DA's office and again returned," Cohen said asking the judge to keep the bail at $1 million not the $3 million the DA wanted it increased to. "There is a history of non-flight and multiple opportunities to successfully flee."

The search warrant was first reviewed by an Orange County deputy district attorney just after Christmas 2017. It was signed by a judge on January 3, 2018 and executed soon after. Police said they found drugs and guns inside the apartment, but Robicheaux and Riley were not arrested until September 2018.

In September, the DA held a press conference and urged members of the public to come forward if they had come into contact with Robicheaux or Riley and thought they may have been sexually assaulted.

Since then five more women have come forward and more charges have been filed.

County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who is looking to unseat DA Rackauckas this November, alleges the delay posed a threat to public safety -- potentially allowing the couple time to target more victims.

When CNN asked the DA about his opponent's claims, he denied there was anything improper about how the investigation was conducted.

In court, the DA's office said it took time to examine the vast cache of electronic material gathered after the search warrant was executed -- a process delayed first because of encryption issues, then due to doctor-patient privilege. The prosecutor requested a clean team to go in and separate the information that is privileged. That team's work is still ongoing.

A court fight over the sealed warrant

To back up his criticism of the timeline, Spitzer distributed the sealed search warrant to reporters. The DA went to the judge to try and keep reporters from disclosing the information contained in the search warrant, which was initially public record but had later been sealed.

In court last week, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones asked reporters one by one whether they had a copy of the warrant, and ordered they turn the copies they had received that day over to the court. He also ordered reporters not to report the details of the warrant.

Reporters from several organizations, including CNN, acknowledged that they had the document.

CNN also told the judge that it had obtained an earlier copy of the unredacted document from a source days before the hearing, and the judge said he could not require that to be turned over.

On Tuesday, the judge reversed his order barring the media from reporting on the search warrant.

This is what CNN found in the search warrant. The accusers' names -- some of which were not redacted when CNN received the report -- have been removed.

The first reports made to police

According to the search warrant, at least three women came to police in 2016 to accuse Robicheaux and Riley of sexual assault.

In documents accompanying the warrant, a detective from the Newport Beach Police Department said the victims "reported they blacked out or felt paralyzed during the time they were with Robicheaux or Riley."

The police did not make an arrest at that time, likely because the victims soon stopped cooperating. "They were unwilling to participate in the investigation," the detective wrote in the documents.

The NBPD referred a request for comment to the DA's office.

Two years later, two of those women's cases were used by the DA to charge the case, and the couple was arrested.

Jane Doe No. 1

According to the search warrant, one of the women reported to a Special Victims Unit investigating officer that she met Riley and Robicheaux on April 10, 2016, at a boat dock in Newport Beach. She drank "four alcoholic beverages," several handed to her by Riley, and suddenly felt like she drank "10 beers," she told police. She also reported she saw Riley "pour liquid from a contact lens case into a beer bottle cap and drink it."

In the court documents she says she left the dock with Robicheaux and Riley and several unidentified people.

They rode in a golf cart to Robicheaux's residence, where she found herself "unable to walk straight." The couple picked her up and "carried her into upstairs bedroom." Once inside, she told the detective, Robicheaux provided her with an orange pill and a white substance, which Riley also ingested. After taking those substances she told the detective she felt "awful," "relaxed," and "intense."

The woman told the officer she felt she could not stand up while Riley removed her shirt and bra, and Robicheaux removed her pants and underwear so she was naked. Riley and Robicheaux were naked, too, she said in the documents filed in court.

Robicheaux began having sexual intercourse with her while Riley was sitting on the bed next to her, she told the investigator. The woman said Riley was using an "iPhone possibly recording it." Riley, the woman told police, orally copulated her.

In the court document, the detective states "the victim also remembered Robicheaux providing her with more drugs during the sexual activities" and holding a "key up to the victim's nose and she snorted the unknown substance two times." After that she began to feel "numb" and "partially paralyzed" until she fell asleep, the detective writes. The woman woke up around midnight and left, returning to her home, she told the detective.

She went to police on April 12, saying she realized Robicheaux and Riley had sex with her while "she could not resist or indicate she did not wish to do so." She did a rape kit and toxicology testing. The test results showed she had MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy, amphetamine, and Benzoylecgonine (a substance that indicates cocaine use) in her system.

But after her report to police, she did not show up to identify the suspects in photos. The police report said she failed to show up to two meetings with police and failed several times to answer the phone when police called. In June 2016, two months after she reported the incident, police "closed her case pending farther leads."

Jane Doe No. 2

On October 2, 2016, another potential victim emerged. That day, several people called 911 to report the sound of a woman screaming in their apartment complex, court documents say. According to the search warrant, police showed up to find Robicheaux, Riley and two women inside Robicheaux's townhouse. One of the women told police she had "blacked out" at a bar and only remembers waking up on the floor with an unidentified male on top of her. She told police she did not think the man was trying to rape her, but he was hitting her in the face and a second person was kicking her in the side of the head. Yet another person was "standing over her taking cell phone video" of it all.

In the police statement filed in court, Robicheaux said he awoke with his girlfriend and another woman "yelling and screaming near the foot of his bed." He said he did not know the woman's name.

The police report says Robicheaux admitted to recording the incident on his cell phone, but refused to show the recording to the officer and denied assaulting the woman in his upstairs bedroom.

When the officer arrived, he found the woman displaying signs of alcohol intoxication.

No one was arrested that day.

Jane Doe No. 3

On July 3, 2017, a woman reported to police that she may have been drugged and raped by Robicheaux and Riley. She said she initially met Robicheaux at a bar. Then, a couple of weeks later, she met Robicheaux at another bar. The woman and Robicheaux met a third time and attended a concert together.

"The victim admitted she used some cocaine from a bag she brought, and some from a bag Robicheaux had with him," documents accompanying the warrant say. She said Robicheaux snorted lines, too. The woman told detectives that she went back to Robicheaux's residence with Riley and everyone was "doing lines of blow and k" -- cocaine and Ketamine, a drug used to tranquilize animals. She said she did ten lines of cocaine as well as some Ketamine.

She said there were several people on the bed, and she did not want to share a bed with so many people. She left the bedroom. She then removed her clothes, as did Robicheaux, to have "consensual intercourse with Robicheaux on a couch." But he could not become erect due to the drugs he'd taken. She tried to orally copulate him and that didn't work, according to the statement to police.

She then said Robicheaux's girlfriend Riley offered to make her a drink. She told detectives she was attracted to Riley and was bisexual. She said that after consuming the drink, she and Riley returned to the bedroom and the woman believed she "blacked out." She woke up, she told the detective, to see Robicheaux naked and "spooning" her while Riley and another female were making out on the same bed.

Ultimately, the woman told police she thought she had been drugged by Riley and Robicheaux. She declined to have a sexual assault examination or toxicology screening.

In the paperwork requesting the warrant two years later, the detective wrote, "I believe there is a high likelihood of other potential victims who were provided drugs and were unable to consent to participate in sexual activities with Robicheaux and Riley."

Robicheaux and Riley have maintained that they have never had non-consensual sex with anyone. "We unequivocally deny all allegations of non-consensual sex and absolutely deny any allegations that we have ever secretly drugged anyone for the purpose of having sex with them," they said in a statement. "We have both passed polygraph tests on each of the questions and we look forward to the truth coming out."

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