Judge reverses order on media in alleged surgeon rape case
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A California judge on Tuesday reversed an order barring the media from reporting on search warrant documents in the case of a surgeon charged with sexual assault, a lawyer said.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones made the ruling after The Associated Press and an Orange County Register reporter argued that his earlier decision blocking them from publishing information they obtained legally outside the courtroom violated free speech rights, said Duffy Carolan, an attorney representing the media outlets.
“It was absolutely an order that violated the constitutional rights of the reporters in the courtroom who happened to come back for that afternoon session,” she said.
Last week, Jones took journalists’ copies of the documents saying they were sealed and barred them from reporting the contents. The reporters and other members of the media had received the copies from Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer at a press conference earlier in the day criticizing the district attorney’s handling of the case against Dr. Grant Robicheaux.
Robicheaux, 38, and his girlfriend Cerissa Riley, 31, have pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, kidnapping and other crimes.
Authorities said the pair drugged and sexually assaulted women they met at social events in Southern California. Authorities said once the women were intoxicated, the couple brought them back to Robicheaux’s Newport Beach home and sexually assaulted them.
The couple is charged with crimes against five alleged victims and possession of cocaine, ecstasy and the drug DHB. Robicheaux —who once appeared in a reality TV show called “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male” — is also charged with crimes against two additional victims and illegal possession of two assault weapons.
Both appeared in court last week on charges spanning from 2009 to 2018 and were released on $1 million bail. Outside the courthouse, Spitzer — who is challenging Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas for his job in next month’s election — held a press conference and handed out copies of documents he said were filed in support of a search conducted at Robicheaux’s home.
Later that day, the district attorney’s office complained to Jones that the records were sealed and the release could jeopardize the criminal case. Jones then barred a handful of reporters in the courtroom at the time from reporting on the documents obtained from Spitzer.
This week, the district attorney’s office argued to keep the documents sealed, citing victims’ privacy rights.
In the document provided by Spitzer, Newport Beach police outlined allegations in support of a warrant to search Robicheaux’s home.
In April 2016, a woman said she was out drinking with the pair and taken in a golf cart back to Robicheaux’s home where he gave her and Riley a white powdery substance and an orange pill, the document said. The woman said she started feeling “awful” and lay on the bed while the couple undressed her. She said Robicheaux had sex with her and Riley and that Riley performed sex acts on her, according to the document.
She later reported the incident to police, according to the document.
In July 2017, a victim reported she had gone to a concert with Robicheaux where they took cocaine and then back to his home with him and Riley. The victim said she engaged in a consensual sex act with Robicheaux but Riley made her a drink and she “blacked out” and woke up later wearing only a shirt, the document said.
She told police she believed the couple “worked together as a ‘team’ to engage in sexual activities with other women,” the document said.