Plans for a planned but never produced reality show called "OC Justice" that would have followed the lives of local prosecutors and their headline-grabbing cases have turned out to be an unusual twist in the ongoing rape case against a Newport Beach surgeon, his girlfriend.
A “Sizzle Reel” video, designed to get the reality program to the point, begins with a breathtaking view of the opulent seaside homes and bikini-clad beach goers of Orange County, while seriously suggesting that “all this beauty is one dark side has ". A power point presentation on the promotional video, which explains the concept of the proposed show, promises an inside look at the local prosecutors at work.
While the show – when "Dateline" crosses with the "Real Housewives" – never got going, it is now cited by lawyers representing Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley as evidence that the couple was wrongly charged with drug abuse Rape of several women to "cause a stir" for former District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' failed re-election campaign.
Together with Rackauckas, the defenders are targeting former prosecutor chief of staff Susan Kang Schroeder and Matt Murphy, a former Orange County murder prosecutor who is now representing some of the alleged victims of Robicheaux and Riley.
"During their tenure, Mr. Rackauckas, Ms. Schroeder, and Mr. Murphy were motivated not only by a sense of justice, but also by a financial, personal, and forgiving desire for media fame and fortune," attorney Philip Cohen wrote a newly filed court motion on the case. "As the treatment shows, the Rackauckas office believed that brutal cases were selling, and they wanted to do that regardless of the facts."
Copies of the reality show pitch were recently given to the defenders during an exchange of evidence from the prosecutor's office in connection with the ongoing criminal proceedings against Robicheaux and Riley.
Orange County's current district attorney, Todd Spitzer, said he refused to attend the scheduled reality show when he took office. Spitzer said he was "deeply concerned" about the role that Rackauckas, Murphy and Schroeder could have played in the proposed production.
"Did the prosecution act to do justice – be impartial and do what is in the best interest of justice – or did the justice and the video seem to do it to do their own pockets to fill?" Spitzer asked.
The prosecutor's office has admitted copies to owners of a marijuana pharmacy to defenders who represent other suspects mentioned on the field, including convicted murderer Daniel Wozniak and convicted serial killer Andrew Urdiales.
As a result, Spitzer said, potential implications for the Robicheaux and Riley case could only be the “tip of the iceberg” and fear that the other high-profile cases may have been “compromised”.
"I will not tolerate how you ran this office," said Spitzer. "You have used it for personal, financial purposes and it is unbearable … I was chosen to clear this mess. And I'm dealing with a lot of reluctance from people who have done something in a certain way in the past few decades. "
Murphy described the release of the reality show pitch as a distraction, claiming that Spitzer is working with Robicheaux and Riley's lawyers to end criminal proceedings and wants attention to be diverted from their "horrific treatment of rape victims".
"I represent a group of rape victims who have had the audacity to resist being released," said Murphy. "That's how Todd Spitzer retaliates."
While the pitch paints Murphy as the lead actor on the proposed show, the former prosecutor said his only involvement was a 20-minute video interview that touched on his work as a prosecutor and the Wozniak murder case.
Murphy said that he had never been asked to play a leading role in a reality show and described the access level proposed on the course as "not practical in any way". As a public servant, a prosecutor can't accept money for such a show, he added.
"That was never discussed or offered in any way," said Murphy about the possible role of the reality show. "I wouldn't have done it if they asked me as deputy prosecutor."
Murphy noted that in a petition filed with the court a few weeks ago, he wrote that "there would be some kind of public statement in which Mr. Spitzer and / or Mr. Cohen would fake outrage again and speak with very loud voices."
Murphy said he believed the show's producers were the ones who turned to the prosecutor's office. The "sizzling roll" contains the interviews with Rackauckas, Schroeder and other prosecutors, but it is not clear whether they have ever agreed to the level of access promised by the production company that stages the show.
Rackauckas and Schroeder did not respond to requests for comments. The production company behind the proposed reality show could not be reached for comment.
The DA office is currently requesting criminal charges against Robicheaux and Riley, while lawyers for some women are seeking removal of the DA office from the case. In the meantime, the couple's defense lawyers are asking the judge who heads the case to resign.
When the couple were charged, Rackauckas accused them of meeting women in Newport Beach restaurants and bars, then drugging them and luring them back to Robicheaux's home to rape them.
In a surprising announcement earlier this year, Spitzer said an investigation by the office of his case showed no evidence of sexual assault. The prosecutor's office now describes the couple as swingers who have participated in consensual sexual encounters with women and drug use.
The prosecutor's move to dismiss the complaint has angered some of the alleged victims. Her lawyers claim they didn't know each other and live across the country, but described similar stories of sexual assault.
Judge Gregory Jones, who heads the case, refused to dismiss the indictment and questioned the ability of the Orange County Prosecutor's Office to remain involved in the case.
The couple's lawyers argue that Judge Jones should step out of the case because of bias, and cite a meeting between the judge and Murphy. A Los Angeles Supreme Court judge is expected to rule on this application.