US surgeon, girlfriend charged with rape, ‘hundreds’ of victims possible

This combination of photos created on September 18, 2018 shows Grant William Robicheaux (L) and Cerissa Laura Riley (R) in mug shots photos released by the Orange County District Attorney's Office, California. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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US surgeon, girlfriend charged with rape, ‘hundreds’ of victims possible

  • Robicheaux and Riley are believed to have worked in tandem at restaurants and bars to identify their victims and make them feel comfortable
  • “Your conscious decisions to party with these defendants... does not give them a pass to rape, assault or have sex with you once you’re past the point of consent”

LOS ANGELES: An orthopedic surgeon in California who once appeared on a dating reality show and his girlfriend have been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting two women, in a case prosecutors suspect might involve hundreds of other victims.
Authorities told AFP on Tuesday they had received dozens of leads in the probe, just hours after a press conference held to try to encourage other women to come forward.
“I am being told by investigators that their phones have been very active this afternoon,” said Michelle Van Der Linden, a spokeswoman for Orange County prosecutors.
“People are calling with additional information and we will be busy tracking down all the additional leads.”
The surgeon, 38-year-old Grant William Robicheaux, and his 31-year-old girlfriend, Cerissa Laura Riley, were charged on September 11 with rape as well as drug and weapons-related offenses in connection with two alleged assaults.
But investigators found hundreds of videos on Robicheaux’s phone after he was arrested, showing women “in various states of undress, consciousness and being assaulted,” Van Der Linden said. “We’re still going through those videos.”
Robicheaux — who once appeared on the Bravo television show “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male” — and Riley are due to be arraigned on October 25.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters that Robicheaux and Riley are believed to have worked in tandem at restaurants and bars to identify their victims and make them feel comfortable.
“We believe the defendants used their good looks and charm to lower the inhibitions of their potential prey,” Rackauckas said.
“We’ve all heard of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Well, a wolf can wear scrubs or doctor’s clothing. Or a wolf can be a beautiful woman.”
The pair apparently used ecstasy, date rape drugs and cocaine to incapacitate their victims before assaulting them at Robicheaux’s home in Newport Beach, he said.
Authorities say Robicheaux and Riley traveled to various festivals since 2015, including Burning Man in Nevada, as well as landmarks in Arizona, where they may have preyed on other women.
Attorneys for Robicheaux and Riley issued a joint statement on Tuesday, denying the charges.
“They have been aware of these accusations for a number of months, and each of them will formally deny the truth of these allegations at their first opportunity in court,” said Robicheaux’s lawyer, Philip Cohen, and Riley’s lawyer, Scott Borthwick.
“Dr. Robicheaux and Ms Riley believe that such allegations do a disservice to, and dangerously undermine, the true victims of sexual assault, and they are eager to have the proper spotlight shed on this case in a public trial,” they added.
“It must be noted that none of the allegations in this matter relate to or concern Dr. Robicheaux’s medical practice or patients in any way.”
If convicted, Robicheaux faces up to 40 years in prison. Riley could face 30 years behind bars.
Rackauckas said potential victims of the pair should not be ashamed to come forward.
“Your conscious decisions to party with these defendants... does not give them a pass to rape, assault or have sex with you once you’re past the point of consent,” he said.


Michael Jackson fans defiant as abuse claims loom over anniversary

Updated 24 June 2019
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Michael Jackson fans defiant as abuse claims loom over anniversary

  • Fans were aware of the sex abuse claims, but the adoration fostered from growing up with the “Thriller” megastar’s many hits supersedes all else
  • If the controversy has dampened commemorations, Jackson’s commercial clout remains substantial

LOS ANGELES: Defiant fans are preparing to mark 10 years since Michael Jackson’s death as fascination with the King of Pop remains undimmed despite lurid claims of child sex abuse.
On Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, the singer’s star continues to draw a constant scrum of selfie-snapping tourists, while nearby souvenir shops, street performers and even tattoo parlors report a brisk trade in all things Jackson.
Across the street at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, a statue of the singer is strategically perched above the box office to entice tourists. Staff at Madame Tussauds say Jackson’s waxwork remains a top draw.
Yet according to the groundbreaking HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” released earlier this year, it was just a few hours’ drive from the heart of Hollywood that Jackson used his celebrity and glamor to molest young boys at his fairytale-themed ranch.
While most fans who spoke to AFP were aware of the documentary, the adoration fostered from growing up with the “Thriller” megastar’s many hits supersedes all else.
“I came here actually only for him. I don’t take pictures with any other star,” said Dutch tourist Hooman Nazemi.
“Some stuff that they were saying in the doc was kind of hard, but you cannot say 100 percent it’s true ... I just love him. I love him and I think everybody does.”
Antoine Baynes, 31, a Jackson impersonator who moonwalks along Hollywood Boulevard for tourists’ tips, said the allegations had done nothing to diminish his performances’ appeal — in fact, the opposite.
“After the HBO special came out I received just as much if not more attention than before. It kinda gave it publicity,” he said.
“Honestly I’ve married people as Michael Jackson. I have two weddings to do this Sunday, to do as Michael Jackson!“
The claims in the HBO documentary by two men who say Jackson sexually abused them for years as minors were not the first, but reignited the scandal after the star’s fatal overdose at age 50 in 2009.
In his lifetime, Jackson denied all child sex allegations and his estate filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO for “posthumous character assassination.”
On Tuesday, the anniversary of Jackson’s passing, die-hard fans from around the world have planned an “MJ Innocent Love Rally” through Hollywood to gather at his star on the sidewalk.
Other events include a “zombie dance” on Venice Beach and screenings of fan-made tribute films.
Those who cannot attend are invited to donate money for an annual ceremony placing roses by Jackson’s grave in the nearby Forest Lawn cemetery.
Organizers did not respond to a request for comment, but claim on Twitter that a record of more than 18,000 roses have been bought this year.
Yet numbers signing up to the events’ Facebook pages are conspicuously low, and pro-Jackson messageboards are rife with complaints about the lack of mainstream enthusiasm for anniversary events this year.
If the controversy has dampened commemorations — with Variety reporting that TV networks and producers have pulled the plug on long-planned anniversary programs — Jackson’s commercial clout remains substantial.
T-shirts, keyrings and coasters bearing the singer’s likeness remain on prominent display at Hollywood tourist stores lining the boulevard, outnumbered only by images of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.
Of a dozen such shops visited by AFP, only one had removed Jackson memorabilia from its shelves, citing a decline in interest.
And for some die-hard fans, a throwaway souvenir just won’t cut it.
“We get people asking for the silhouette, with the hat, sometimes his signature,” said tattoo artist John Lopez.
“Maybe five or six each year. It’s no different this year.”