After being traditionally recused over moral lapses in a case that garnered embarrassing nationwide consideration in 2015, District Lawyer Tony Rackauckas stood in entrance of me sporting an outwardly impassive face. I’d written a collection of stories articles over the earlier yr that chronicled rampant corruption in Individuals v. Scott Dekraai. Judges, courtroom observers, journalists, virtuous cops and prosecutors—even Dekraai’s victims—couldn’t consider law-enforcement officers felt the necessity to cheat in a slam-dunk death-penalty case. In any case, Orange County’s suburban-loaded juries not often hesitate to help capital punishment, and this 2011 capturing dedicated inside a Seal Seashore salon was the worst mass killing in native historical past.
For 4 many years, Rackauckas reigned victorious inside our courthouses. He started working as a prosecutor within the early 1970s, gained a popularity as a hotshot murder prosecutor by the 1980s, was appointed as a decide within the 1990s, and completed that decade by profitable an incumbent-free election for DA in a locale with a inhabitants bigger than 20 U.S. states. However on the twilight of his profession, Rackauckas quietly seethed within the aftermath of his Dekraai recusal. I might see his jaw clench as he contemplated what to say. No prime prosecutor in California historical past had ever earlier than been booted from a death-penalty case for a refusal to behave honorably.
Together with Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ deputies, he and a warped clique of his employees had been caught trampling primary guidelines of equity designed to make sure the integrity of the criminal-justice system. Proof of the intentional transgressions alarmed the California Courtroom of Attraction and then-Superior Courtroom Decide Thomas M. Goethals, a former prosecutor. Beneath the watch of Hutchens and Rackauckas, law-enforcement officers for years ran unconstitutional capers towards pretrial inmates, hid or destroyed exculpatory proof and dedicated perjury to masks their deeds. Nonetheless, in March 2015, the DA hoped the general public would see his workplace’s conduct as a collection of unintentional errors.
(Artwork design by R. Scott Moxley)
Simply two months earlier, with protesters locked outdoors by armed guards, Rackauckas gave a speech within the Corridor of Administration in Santa Ana to simply accept a fifth, four-year time period. He advised the viewers that he was “privileged and humbled” to stay within the job to “do justice for the Individuals.” The DA couldn’t resist taking a shot at reporters for spreading “lies” about him. He additionally stated, “As a prosecutor, we should do the best issues, particularly when nobody is wanting. We make the robust calls and typically make unpopular selections—and should even look out for the rights of the responsible. . . . The district lawyer’s workplace vows to go ahead and attain for the celebs. . . . Hope to see you in 4 years [to accept a sixth term].”
There’s little question Rackauckas anticipated his want can be fulfilled, although he’d be in his 80s throughout a craved 2019-2023 time period. In earlier contests, the DA both crushed opponents or confronted no opposition. He’d loved the good thing about an odd confluence. Each Republican and Democratic millionaire heavyweights noticed him as their useful gizmo.
However June’s open main election delivered distressing information to institution gamers and the incumbent. Greater than 61 % of voters needed a brand new DA. Including strain, Supervisor Todd Spitzer, his prime challenger in November’s run-off election, was considerably youthful, higher funded, and extra articulate and energetic. Rackauckas possessed one main trait he might exploit: a win-at-all-cost mentality.
Spitzer, the underdog, by no means gave up hope he might topple his nemesis and convey a brand new period to Orange County regulation enforcement (OC Weekly photograph)
Dr. Grant Robicheaux, a Newport Seashore surgeon, and his girlfriend, Cerissa Riley, might by no means have anticipated they might develop into pawns within the DA’s ploy to maintain energy. Each clever, engaging and nonviolent, Robicheaux—who as soon as appeared on a Bravo courting present—and Riley have been arduous staff, however additionally they led an lively, glad existence on the bass-thumping Southern California get together circuit. There was loads of intercourse, booze and such leisure medicine as marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy. Three-way bed room encounters weren’t unusual with fellow feminine partygoers, experiences Robicheaux brazenly filmed.
Within the weeks earlier than the run-off election, Rackauckas considerably trailed Spitzer by as many as seven or eight factors in behind-the-scenes polling. His taxpayer-funded public-relations workplace issued a every day avalanche of press releases and media advisories promoting the DA as a troublesome crime fighter. They organized an Angel Stadium live performance with Nick Jonas. They aired a dishonest cable-TV business implying they’d dug up Spitzer’s private medical historical past and located proof he was mentally loco. However the polling didn’t enhance, maybe as a result of the challenger’s advert precisely nailed Rackauckas as corrupt. The DA wanted an enormous, sensational new case to bolster his marketing campaign about 58 days earlier than the election.
Two ladies—who’d freely partied with Robicheaux and Riley—individually advised the Newport Seashore Police Division in 2016 that the couple may need drugged them with sleep-inducing, unlawful substances and dedicated rape whereas they have been unconscious. A toxicology report on Jane Doe No. 1 on the time didn’t help her suspicions. Jane Doe No. 2 initially informed police she’d woke up within the couple’s residence as a result of individuals had been punching and kicking her within the face. Doe No. 2’s greatest pal was current that night time in the identical home, however she noticed no beating or rape and stated the accuser had a historical past of post-traumatic stress dysfunction. Summoned police noticed no accidents.
Poor Dana Rohrabacher & Tony Rackauckas: How the mighty have fallen. (Illustration by Bob Aul)
On Sept. 17—50 days earlier than the election—Susan Kang Schroeder, Rackauckas’ media flack, alerted the native, state, nationwide and worldwide media with a teaser. The DA had elected to cost the 38-year-old physician and his 31-year-old girlfriend based mostly on the claims of Jane Doe Nos. 1 and a couple of and the outcomes of a January search of the couple’s residence. To ensure the presence of a horde of reporters, Schroeder declared in bold-face sort, “Please observe: No further info or interviews shall be out there previous to the information convention.”
The next day, a breathless Rackauckas took the rostrum to make what he referred to as “an necessary announcement.” To a hushed DA headquarters convention room loaded with the likes of a Good Morning America producer, Rackauckas claimed the defendants went to bars the place Riley garnered the belief of unsuspecting lady, tricked their targets into intoxication, lured them residence, plied them with knockout medicine, after which filmed themselves sexually assaulting their “unconscious or near-unconscious” victims. Based on the DA, the raid on the physician’s residence discovered greater than 1,000 movies documenting the rapes.
That story quickly traveled across the globe and gave Rackauckas’ cash-starved re-election marketing campaign simply $1 million in free media. “OC surgeon, lady accused of rape; might have preyed on as much as 1,000 ladies,” an ABC Information headline learn. “U.S. surgeon and girlfriend suspected of a number of drug rapes,” the BBC in London declared. The South China Morning Submit reported, “How California superstar surgeon Grant Robicheaux went from reality-TV star to accused serial rapist.”
However there’s an enormous drawback with these stories, in addition to for Rackauckas: There’s no credible proof even now—greater than a month after the arrests—that a single rape occurred. I’ll supply an alternate model of occasions: In contrast to the sinister tones the DA locations on the defendants’ journey to bars, they—like hundreds of different individuals each night time in OC—went to socialize with buddies and new acquaintances. By their very own selection, ladies visited the couple’s house and freely consumed booze and narcotics. Additionally they prepared engaged in intercourse with the physician and his girlfriend.
How can I make a press release so at odds with Rackauckas’ pre-election story?
The Weekly has discovered that investigators grabbed about 70,902 movies from the couple through the raid. Most of them recorded holidays, live shows and routine occasions. There are quite a few intercourse movies involving clearly awake ex-girlfriends, none of whom have claimed rape. Fewer than 20 present group intercourse, which the DA should know isn’t a criminal offense. Not a type of recordings exhibits anybody being raped whereas acutely aware or not.
Actually, the movies memorialize an extended listing of lovely, match, twentysomething ladies who discovered the physician irresistibly engaging and sexually fascinating. Ladies Rackauckas had labeled as unconscious are seen driving on prime of a susceptible Robicheaux in mattress, moaning and making statements comparable to “Oh, my God!” and “Ohhhh!” and “Oh, yeah!” The footage additionally exhibits all the ladies partaking in a number of of the next acts: asking the physician how he likes oral copulation carried out, guffawing, kissing him, strolling, undressing him, dancing, fondling their very own breasts, outright laughing, holding their legs up for intercourse, smiling, caressing him, joyously jawing into his digital camera, taking their very own garments off, making out with different females, and positioning themselves on all fours. One lady is seen sporting a birth-control patch on her ass as she walks round his bed room. On a separate event, one other wide-awake lady asks Riley for permission to carry out oral intercourse on Robicheaux earlier than their three-way encounter.
With these particulars hidden from the general public and never content material together with his first spherical of accusations, the DA summoned reporters once more three days later by including kidnapping fees and requesting a bail improve to $three million for every defendant. Robicheaux and Riley have been an imminent menace to the group, he advised.
DA Evil (Artwork design by R. Scott Moxley / photograph illustration by Richie Beckman)
However Rackauckas’ gamble to win election on a trumped-up case failed on Nov. 6, when voters lastly rejected his candidacy. Because it turned out, the race wasn’t a nail-biter. Rackauckas misplaced by greater than 45,000 votes. And he didn’t graciously concede.
Not surprisingly, Spitzer was the primary individual to develop into suspicious of the Robicheaux/Riley mess. He’s been chronicling his nemesis’ mismanagement and offenses for years. After an early-January swearing-in ceremony, the supervisor will take management of the DA’s workplace. We will solely hope he ushers in a brand new, cleaning period. He promised throughout a post-election chat that he gained’t run a “soiled” operation.
That interview prompted ideas again to Rackauckas standing in entrance of me after he’d been recused from Dekraai three years in the past. When his stare ended and his clenched jaw relaxed, the DA broke right into a disingenuous smile, the precursor to a smart-ass, rhetorical query. How ought to he proceed? I advised him to wash up his act and hearth the cheaters on his employees. He snorted and walked away.
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for 20 years. An indignant congressman threatened to interrupt Moxley’s knee caps. A unclean sheriff promised his essential reporting was irrelevant after which landed in jail. The U.S. Home of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his tales for the arrest of a physician who bought pretend drugs to dying sufferers. Moxley has gained Journalist of the Yr honors on the Los Angeles Press Membership; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Yr by the LA Society of Skilled Journalists; and hailed by two New York Occasions Journal writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California regulation enforcement corruption.