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Orange County District Attorney to Drop Charges Against Doctor and Girlfriend Accused of Rape

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  • Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced that he will be dropping the charges against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend Cerissa Riley, who were accused of drugging and raping several women. 
  • The case made national headlines as Robicheaux had previously appeared on reality television.
  • Former Orange County D.A., Tony Rackauckas, who pressed the charges against them in 2018, initially claimed that there could be as many as 1,000 videos of the couple assaulting women.
  • Spitzer is now saying that a review of evidence proves that there is no video evidence of the two sexually assaulting unconscious women, and he believes Rackauckas “manufactured” the case. 

Charges Set to be Dropped

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer will be dropping charges against a surgeon and his girlfriend who were accused of drugging and raping several women.

According to Spitzer, there was not enough evidence to prove the charges against them. Dr. Grant Robicheaux was facing 17 felony charges, and Cerissa Riley was facing 13. They both faced counts of rape by use of drugs, oral copulation by use of anesthesia or a controlled substance, assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, and kidnapping with the intent to commit a sexual offense, among other charges. If convicted on everything, they both could have faced life in prison. 

The case made headlines because Robicheaux had previously been named Orange Coast Magazine’s Most Eligible Bachelor in 2013, with him later appearing on a Bravo reality show called the Online Dating Rituals of the American Male. 

The two were first charged in 2018 by then-Orange County D.A., Tony Rackauckas. He said the couple met their alleged victims at bars and on dating apps and later invited them into Robicheaux’s home where they assaulted them. Rackauckas claimed there were 1,000 videos of the two sexually assaulting unconscious women. Now, Spitzer is saying that no such footage exists. 

Spitzer had previously ordered a review of all the evidence in the case. For three months, two veteran sexual assault prosecutors went over thousands of photos, videos, and chats, as well as audio recordings, messages, documents, emails, and interviews. 

“There was not a single video or photograph depicting an incapacitated woman being sexually assaulted by Robicheaux or Riley,”  a statement announcing the soon-to-be dropped charges said.

The statement also said that no witnesses who came forward saying they saw the defendants assault an unconscious woman. Spitzer, who replaced Rackauckas in 2018 after beating him in a heated election, believes that Rackauckas used the case to gain media attention to boost his campaign efforts. 

“The prior District Attorney and his chief of staff manufactured this case and repeatedly misstated the evidence to lead the public and vulnerable women to believe that these two individuals plied up to 1,000 women with drugs and alcohol in order to sexually assault them – and videotape the assaults,” Spitzer said in the statement. 

“What the prior District Attorney and his chief of staff did to these defendants and to the women involved in this case is a travesty,” Spitzer continued. “While I cannot undo the injustice that has already been done in this case, I can – and I will – continue to fulfill my legal and ethical obligations as the elected District Attorney of Orange County and dismiss all criminal charges against Dr. Grant William Robicheaux and Cerissa Laura Riley.”

Responses

The news of the charges being dropped came as a shock to many. Philip Cohen, who was representing Robicheaux in the case, told reporters that even though the charges are being dropped, damage to his client has already been done. 

“I don’t want to be overly dramatic or hyperbolic, but the mere filing of this case has destroyed irreparably two lives,” Cohen said. “He has become persona non grata with an entire city, an entire state—and I don’t want to be exaggerating—but probably an entire country.”

On the other side, Michael Fell, who was representing one of the accusers in the case expressed disappointment in the news to the Los Angeles Times.

“For somebody to report, for them to go through what she had to go through with the police, for the district attorney’s office to file criminal charges, for her to have to be patient the last two years while the case is being prosecuted, only for it to be dropped — she’s going to be devastated,” Fell told the outlet. 

Rackauckas also spoke out against the decision in a statement to NBC News in Los Angeles 

“Any prosecutor should think long and hard before dismissing such a case where multiple women have independently come forward. I just hope they’re not being sold down the river for some twisted political motive,” he said.

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (NBC News) (Los Angeles Magazine)

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities

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The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.


Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human

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The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.


Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

See what others are saying: (CNN)(BBC) (The New York Times)

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