DA’s Office Worked to Frame Newport Beach Doctor as Serial Rapist

Susan Kang Schroeder in the hot seat: Have you no decency, madam? (Illustration by Federico Medina)

What prompted journalists around the globe to preposterously report in September 2018 that a Newport Beach doctor and his girlfriend had drugged, then videotaped themselves raping 1,000 women?

In July, Susan Kang Schroeder—the media flack for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas until his defeat in the 2018 election—sat for a sworn Irvine deposition in a related civil case and tried to conjure up explanations to exonerate herself as well as her boss for the lies told about Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley.

Philip Cohen, Robicheaux’s defense attorney, asked Schroeder if she considered headlines such as “Reality TV Surgeon and His Lover Appear to Have Drugged and Raped Up to a Thousand Women On Camera After Luring Them From Bars and Festivals” had been accurate. 

Even though the Weekly first revealed a year ago that there is no evidence of a single recorded rape, Schroeder stunningly defended the false, sensational report as correct.

Cohen followed up, probing for her rationale.

“Because it was feared [sic] to have drugged, raped up [to a thousand women],” she answered coyly. “It doesn’t say they did in fact.”

Cohen mentioned other misleading reports, including an NBC News article headlined, “California Surgeon, Girlfriend Accused of Rape; Possibly Preyed on More Than a Thousand Victims.”

Schroeder pointed to the word possibly and argued the headline was “not inaccurate.” She then implied it was reasonable to believe there were a thousand victims. She also appeared baffled by the identity of anyone who could have inspired reporters to push the assertion.

But there’s no mystery who sold People v. Robicheaux and Riley as a legitimate bombshell criminal case. Schroeder deleted all of her emails after questions were raised about her conduct. Sadly for her, some records were recovered and proved her office had unambiguously pushed the “thousand victims” line to reporters behind the scenes. 

The guilty here were truly hiding in plain sight. Rackauckas and Schroeder conducted numerous press conferences on the case; produced a 2.5-minute film showcasing the couple’s good looks as a way to demonstrate, as they claimed, that not all monsters are ugly; issued multiple misleading press releases; and repeatedly called everyone from ABC’s Good Morning America to The New York Times to The Howard Stern Show. They even prompted a special episode of Dr. Oz, in which the defendants were convicted on-air as worthy of direct trips to state prison—before there was even a real trial.

The timing of the Rackauckas/Schroeder media blitz wasn’t coincidental. About a month earlier, private professional polling revealed that their hated nemesis, Todd Spitzer, was poised to win an upset victory that would boot them out of office after a scandal-scarred, 20-year stint. Schroeder, who managed her boss’ public image as Mr. Law and Order and served as his de facto campaign manager, needed a miracle that might hit Spitzer with a whammy: winning massive, free pre-election publicity selling Rackauckas as a heroic champion of sexual assault victims in an election when the turnout of female voters was expected to surge. 

Enter sucker-punched victims Robicheaux and Riley, who became forced campaign fodder.

Illustration by Mark Dancey

There were obvious signs of hanky-panky in the prosecution from the outset of the case 13 months ago. First, detectives inside the Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) had thoroughly investigated two 2016 rape complaints against the couple, concluded the accusations were baseless and officially closed the files as non-crimes. It was those complaints that Rackauckas dredged up as genuine and publicized while trying to fight off Spitzer. To help explain away the time gap, the DA put out a September 2018 press release with a timeline of the case that oddly omitted NBPD’s conclusions. 

During a June deposition, Cohen asked Rackauckas to explain the omission.

“I don’t think it’s important,” he replied. “I don’t see the relevancy of it.”

The DA’s timeline was also crafted to make reporters believe that a 2018 cold-case DNA hit on a Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database had strengthened his prosecution of the couple, an allegation spread around the planet by the media. But here, too, was another glaring, unforgivable doctoring of the record. The vaginal DNA match, which had been collected shortly after one professed victim claimed she’d been raped, wasn’t tied to either Robicheaux or Riley. It belonged to the woman’s boyfriend.

Cohen pressed Rackauckas on this point, too, asking, “Would it be fair to say that the cold-case hit that came back did not strengthen a case against Robicheaux and Riley?”

The chagrined ex-DA replied, “I think that would be fair to say,” but later insisted, “There was no attempt to do any misleading.”

After hours of questions, Rackauckas conceded to Cohen that he’d seen the case as a vehicle for publicity and re-election.

Swallowing tainted Rackauckas Kool-Aid: Gulp, gulp, gulp

As the Weekly reported last week, an alarmed Spitzer digested the depositions and wrote a letter to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra accusing Rackauckas and Schroeder of “shamelessly exploiting” the case as a campaign stunt. 

“The former DA and [Schroeder] repeatedly engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by exploiting pretrial publicity for re-election purposes,” Spitzer wrote in a letter unsealed by a judge on Nov. 6. “In doing so, they each further victimized the victims in this case and prohibited the [Orange County district attorney’s] office from exercising its sacrosanct duty to ensure a fair trial and its duty to seek justice.”

The new DA added, “This is not a close call. It is a blatant abuse of power and misuse of government resources for personal gain by the former administration of this office. This office cannot suffer any more credibility setbacks given its history of prosecutorial abuse.”

Officials plan a December criminal court hearing in a mess that should be studied in law schools across the nation as a frightening example of warped, self-serving prosecutors in action.

15 Replies to “DA’s Office Worked to Frame Newport Beach Doctor as Serial Rapist”

  1. Lock-em All Up.
    The entire Orange County Justice System Needs a Flush
    Right into the SHU, with Few Exceptions…

    Take Away their Unearned Penions In the Process,
    for Crimes Against the People and the U.S. Constitution.

  2. Typo Correction.

    Unearned Pensions, Just So We are Clear.
    Take Their Evil Power, Expose them for what they are
    Low Life Parasites…

  3. Great write up. These two horrible people should be prosecuted, jailed and fined to the limit. The monies should go to Robicheaux and Riley because their careers and reputations undoubtedly suffered immeasurable damage.

    1. A Very Small Sample of What´s To Come Naveen.
      That´s What This is Really about!

      These Two Clowns Rackauckas & Schroeder are
      being thrown under the bus by toddy boy and The Criminal gang
      Or Toddy Flipped for a deal, to Save his Tail, exposing the
      thirty plus Years Injustice here in the Great Orange County Government.

      Either way, Does Not Matter.
      Their Time Is Coming, For All of Them…

  4. Reputations were damaged, a hard earned career was ruined ! Robicheaux and Riley piled up legal debt defending their honor against a corrupt justice system and a media that does not do its due diligence . I can only hope that they sue , although money will never restore the damage done to the lives of these two people

  5. No. Super strange. The DA is going to free likely predators just because he doesn’t like the previous DA. Reminds me of a supermarket tabloid. Feel sorry for whoever has to write stuff like this for a career.

  6. Thank goodness for people like Scott Moxley who write stuff like this for a living. These people need to be exposed. Who else is going to do it?

    1. Few will Step up Against the Rigged Evil Orange county System Harold,
      As they are either Part of it, on the Peoples Payroll or just
      Plain Chicken Sh*t Sheeple.

      That is what this has Come to be, a sewer that needs and
      must be Purged.

      Looking at Tony the T-Racks Situation , he had better talk,
      or he Will End up Like Jeff Epstein as he must be Silenced

      Exposing the Decades of Putting Countless people Away
      Violating Their Rights. The Current and past Judges, Governors, Criminal Controllers
      throughout this Rotten System, Deputy D.A.´s and The Badge heavy heroes

      will Do Anything to Protect their Pensions and their Tails
      from Going To Prison.

  7. moxley another one Da nbpd mostly just frames rich people dui or follows the homeless our oft the beach and city while they perceive woman as objects it’s a turn or worse just look at the cops and Da u will find them overactive on woman rights and law

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