Former Drexel University neurologist Dr. Ricardo Cruciani who sexually abused patients kills himself in New York City jail

NEW YORK — A once-prominent neurologist convicted last month of sexually abusing patients killed himself in a New York jail on Monday, two people familiar with the matter confirmed to the Associated Press.

dr Ricardo Cruciani, 68, former chair of the department of neurology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, was found unresponsive in a shower area at the Eric M. Taylor Center, a prison in the notorious Rikers Island complex, the people said. They were not authorized to speak in public and did so on condition of anonymity.

Cruciani’s attorney, Frederick Sosinsky, confirmed in a statement that his client had died, but not the manner of death.

“Ricardo’s lawyers and family are incredibly shocked and saddened to learn of his violent death this morning while he was in city custody,” he said.

Prosecutors said Cruciani cared for vulnerable patients by overprescribing painkillers, sometimes to treat serious injuries from car wrecks and other accidents.

Six women testified that the 2013 sexual abuse at appointments at a Manhattan medical center often took place behind closed doors, where the doctor would expose himself and demand sex.

“I’m relieved that he’s facing a different judge now,” said Terrie Phoenix, who testified against Cruciani in court.

He was also scheduled to go on trial next January on charges of molesting multiple patients over the age of 15 at his offices in New York City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey.

Cruciani denied abusing women. In court, his lawyer questioned the credibility of his accusers.

Sosinsky called for “an immediate and objective investigation” into the circumstances of his death, including whether prison officials were complying with a court order at the time of his sentencing to place him in protective custody and suicide surveillance.

“None of these conditions have ever been met, to our knowledge,” Sosinsky said. “If it had been them, we wouldn’t have had this horrible discussion.”

Benny Boscio, president of the Correctional Officers’ Union, said high-profile inmates are usually placed on suicide watch and monitored by an additional officer when they first enter the prison.

“The fact that this inmate was not placed under suicide surveillance raises serious questions. Our officials were not responsible for this tragic incident, which was clearly a management failure,” he said.

Cruciani died while awaiting sentencing next month in a New York state case in which he was convicted of 12 counts, including predatory sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse, and acquitted of two other counts. He faced life in prison.

Cruciani’s action “was in no way a sign of remorse or guilt,” said Hillary Tullin, who also testified and helped fuel the case by calling a sex abuse hotline in 2017. “He just couldn’t face the thought of putting the rest of his life behind Riegel.”

Tullin called it a “sad day for all of his victims who will never reach finality and will never have the opportunity to go to the accused to tell him directly how his crimes have profoundly impacted their lives.”

Jeffrey Fritz, who represents 30 women who say they were victimized by Cruciani, including Phoenix and Tullin, said many of his clients “feel cheated of the criminal justice system.”

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are sexual assault survivors unless they give permission, which Phoenix and Tullin did.

Firefighters said they responded to a call from an unconscious inmate at the jail around 5:50 a.m. Paramedics tried to revive him but were unable to, and he was pronounced dead at the scene, the department said.

The city’s Department of Justice, which operates Rikers Island, confirmed that an inmate at the Eric M. Taylor Center died Monday but did not release his name, citing the family’s pending notification. The department said the cause of death was being investigated.

Prison Commissioner Louis Molina said in a statement he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the inmate’s death and promised “a preliminary internal review to determine the circumstances of his death.”

Cruciani is at least the 11th person to die in a city jail this year. Last year, 16 people died in city jails – the most since 2013.

The Daily News was the first to report Cruciani’s death.

A message seeking comment was left with the Manhattan Attorney’s Office, which is pursuing the case, which ended in his July 29 conviction.

Cruciani was out on bail at the trial but was sent to Rikers Island after the verdict.

The complex, plagued by years of neglect, has been in turmoil since the coronavirus pandemic began, with a spike in inmate deaths, violence, self-harm and staff absenteeism. The city has announced it will close Rikers Island by 2027 and replace it with four smaller prisons elsewhere.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Former Drexel University neurologist Dr. Ricardo Cruciani who sexually abused patients kills himself in New York City jail

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