This month—16 years after three high-school boys filmed themselves raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl in a multimillionaire’s oceanview Newport Beach home—television personality Dr. Oz helped return Orange County to the center of a national scandal involving partying, drugs, sex, video recordings and questions of consent.
“Today, another alleged Dr. Evil is being exposed, and this time it’s a reality-TV surgeon previously labeled ‘Bachelor of the Year,’” Oz said of Grant Robicheaux, a 38-year-old Newport Beach doctor who faces felony charges alongside his co-defendant, Cerissa Riley. “It is believed he used his looks, wealth and even his girlfriend to drug and sexually assault at least 12 female victims—a number, police say, that will just keep growing.”
With a backdrop of ominous music featuring sirens and prison-cell doors slamming shut, Oz added that investigators “found thousands of photos and videos on Dr. Robicheaux’s phone [in which] he is engaged in sex acts with the alleged victims.” He then called the surgeon a “wolf in doctor’s scrubs” and the couple a “Bonnie and Clyde-esque” pair.
More on the alleged “thousands” of sex-crime images and videos later. First, keep in mind Bonnie and Clyde murdered at least 13 people in the early 1900s. Robicheaux and Riley haven’t been convicted of anything. There hasn’t even been a preliminary hearing in which the government is tested on the validity of its case.
That reality didn’t give pause to Oz guest Nancy Grace, the former Atlanta prosecutor turned cable-TV commentator. You may remember Grace’s high-pitched campaign against Duke University lacrosse players before 2006 gang-rape charges disappeared as baseless. With the ink on the charges in the Newport Beach case still fresh and not a minute of testimony, she’s all in again for prosecutors.
“I’m so mad I could chew a nail in half,” said a snarling Grace. “[Robicheaux] needs to go to jail.”
Oz asked Grace to explain the crimes. “One woman woke up the next day, and she called police, okay?” she recounted. “Then another victim started screaming when she woke up, and neighbors called police. Then police got on it. They put out an alert, and other women are now coming forward. But I just don’t understand why people are going easy on [Riley]. Uh, she had to enjoy this just as much as him with over a thousand victims.”
Grace added, “I don’t like it.”
Oz responded, “Yeah, reprehensible.”
The stilted, key-fact-omitting summary, faux outrage and numbers trickery are revealing. Notice the sly transformation. Oz claimed law enforcement found “thousands of images” of Robicheaux engaged in sex with encumbered victims with the aid of Riley. Minutes later, Grace asserted there are “over a thousand victims.”
Which is it? A thousand pictures or a thousand victims? Both? Or neither?
All of us functioning semi-rationally doubt there are a thousand sex-crime videos or a thousand victims. At the time of the initial charges, the first reported allegation against the couple happened in 2016. Do the math. To drug and rape a thousand women, the defendants would have had to accumulate an exhausting 9.6 victims per week for two years. And–more incredibly–about 998 of them never called police about being raped.
Who would push such nonsense to the public and why?
Scandal-scarred District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is seeking a sixth, four-year term in the Nov. 6 election, and he’s facing his most intimidating challenger, Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a former prosecutor and state assemblyman. The 75-year-old Rackauckas breezed by prior opponents but saw the more articulate Spitzer, 58, come within 3 percentage points at the June primary, in which 61 percent of voters wanted someone other than the incumbent.
With Spitzer airing TV ads slamming Rackauckas’ fitness for office in the final weeks of the campaign, the DA decided in mid-September to take the national-media stage. He announced the pursuit of the “well-known Newport Beach surgeon and reality-TV star” based on the claims of Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2. But the timeline, as well as case facts—facts Rackauckas hoped to hide from the public—raise questions about why the matter suddenly landed on the fast track.
Doe No. 1 complained to the Newport Beach Police Department 882 days before the Robicheaux/Riley arrests; investigators closed that case 544 days before the arrests, noting lack of evidence. In April 2016, she argued with her boyfriend, then joined the couple. Doe No. 1 willingly consumed beer, champagne and illegal narcotics before having sex with them, according to police. She told an officer she did not tell the couple to stop. Two days later, after her boyfriend learned of the affair, she claimed she may have been raped after falling unconscious. A drug test revealed only uppers (cocaine and ecstasy) in her system, not downers such as GHB, as she predicted.
Doe No. 2’s police complaint occurred 709 days before the arrest. In October 2016, after a night of partying, she awoke in Robicheaux’s home screaming so loudly that neighbors called 911. Doe No. 2 initially told arriving police she didn’t think anyone tried to rape her, but that people had been punching her in the face and kicking her in the head. She showed signs of heavy intoxication but no injuries. Her friend, who was also present and saw no rape, suggested she’d experienced a bad nightmare.
Doe No. 3, whose story wasn’t credible enough to be included in charges, told police she was more interested in Riley but willing had three-way sex with the couple on July 1, 2017. The following night she returned to Robicheaux’s house, snorted about 10 lines of cocaine, her preferred daily-use drug, and agreed to have sex with the doctor again. Drug usage, however, prevent him from getting an erection, according to the police report. When she awoke the next morning, Robicheaux was “spooning her” while partially awake. This Doe thought Riley may have drugged her “because she didn’t know what had occurred.” She refused to submit to a sexual assault exam.
After summoning the media to his office on Sept. 18—just 49 days before the election, Rackauckas teased the public’s imagination. When asked to tally the number of victims on the videos, he said, “Many.” Pressed, he changed it to “hundreds.” Pressed again, he said more than 1,000.
In early 2018, the British press labeled a defendant with 40 victims as the “worst” sex-crimes offender in that nation’s history. If Rackauckas is telling the truth, Robicheaux and Riley—who, by the way, passed polygraph tests—could be the biggest offenders in modern Earth history. Yet, law enforcement possessed the images for more than 5,880 hours before taking them into custody.
Suspicions abound. Twenty-nine days after the DA said he’d seen images proving there were more than 1,000 victims, deputy DA Jennifer Walker claimed she’d found only five more potential victims after the first two women and flatly contradicted her boss in open court. Walker told Judge Gregory Jones that the “electronic items that was [sic] seized in January has [sic] not been viewed by the People.”
Walker and Rackauckas both can’t be telling the truth.
There’s a cynical explanation. Having thoroughly destroyed the defendants’ reputations before a trial, the DA’s goal is now to prevent the defense from exposing his hyperbole before the election against Spitzer. Walker fueled the drama by reneging on pledges to surrender the evidence twice this month. She also tried to increase bail to $3 million each, arguing the couple pose a “severe danger to society.” In rejecting the move, the judge wondered aloud why they hadn’t been arrested “much earlier,” if they truly are “a very real risk.”
It’s easy to understand interest in the case. Robicheaux and Riley freely admit they love to party, just like many well-to-do young adults in Southern California. They’ve partied with people who love to party, too, police learned. Nobody who is unconscious should ever be victimized, and perhaps the charges aren’t baseless. But perhaps these defendants are the useful puppets of a warped politician hoping to keep his job.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; earned six dozen other reporting awards; and been hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.