A Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend are once again charged with drugging a woman, after an Orange County Superior Court judge on Thursday allowed prosecutors to refile criminal charges in the high-profile case that he had recently thrown out.
The ruling by Judge Michael Leversen means Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley are both once again charged with poisoning a woman and furnishing her with PCP, while Riley is also charged with providing her with cocaine. An additional half-dozen charges against Robicheaux — related to various drugs and allegedly illegal weapons found by police during a search of his home — remain.
After a series of legal setbacks — including the same judge earlier this year throwing out far more serious sexual assault-related charges that first drew international headlines to the case — Thursday’s ruling was a courtroom victory for prosecutors. But the defense team during a hearing at the Fullerton courthouse indicated they will soon be asking for the entirety of the remaining charges to be dismissed.
Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley leave the North Justice Center with attorneys Philip Cohen, left, and Scott Borthwick in Fullerton, CA on Thursday, September 28, 2023. A judge on Thursday agreed to allow prosecutors to reinstate charges alleging the couple drugged a woman. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
After years of heated courtroom debate over whether Robicheaux and Riley were “swingers” who had consensual sex with women or predators who befriended women at Newport Beach night spots before drugging and raping them, the decision to toss the sexual assault charges — because of a lack of convincing evidence — has essentially turned it into a drug and guns case involving a single alleged victim rather than the 13 initial accusers. It is currently being prosecuted by the California Attorney General’s Office, after a judge several years ago removed the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from the case.
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The three reinstated criminal charges revolve around allegations by a woman who met Robicheaux on a dating app while visiting Orange County on Easter weekend in 2017. The woman told police that Riley also turned up at what she had thought was going to be a date with Robicheaux at Nobu Newport Beach, and alleged that Riley convinced her to take cocaine. The woman alleged she later woke up at Robicheaux’s Newport Beach apartment, where she said the couple gave her a drink containing PCP while trying to convince her to have sex with them.
The question for the judge on Thursday was whether it is outside the statute of limitations for the poisoning and drug furnishing charges and therefore past the deadline for Robicheaux and Riley to be prosecuted for those alleged crimes.
The prosecutors argued the statute of limitations was effectively paused once the couple was previously charged with drugging the woman in order to kidnap and rape her. The defense countered that the poisoning and drug furnishing charges cannot stand on their own after the judge found there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue sexual assault charges.
Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley leave the North Justice Center with attorney Shawn Holley in Fullerton, CA on Thursday, September 28, 2023. A judge on Thursday agreed to allow prosecutors to reinstate charges alleging the couple drugged a woman. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Judge Leversen ultimately sided with prosecutors, though he noted that there wasn’t a clear answer to the questions raised by the defense. A jury will likely have to ultimately decide whether or not it was willing drug use among consensual adults, the judge noted.
Attorney Philip Cohen, who represents Robicheaux, told the judge that the defense plans to file a motion to dismiss all the charges due to the questions surrounding the statute of limitations. An Oct. 20 hearing was scheduled to discuss that issue.
If the charges are not dismissed, the defense signaled that they would want to move quickly to jury trial. A tentative trial date was set for Nov. 29.