NEW YORK — A once-prominent neurologist convicted last month of sexually abusing patients committed suicide Monday in a New York City jail, two people familiar with the case said.
dr. Ricardo Cruciani, 68, was found unresponsive in a shower room at the Eric M. Taylor Center, a prison in the infamous Rikers Island complex, 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 shocked and incredibly saddened to learn this morning of his violent death while in custody,” he said.
Prosecutors said Cruciani cared for vulnerable patients by prescribing too many painkillers, sometimes to treat serious injuries from car wrecks and other accidents.
Six women testified that the sexual abuse often took place behind closed doors during appointments in 2013 at a Manhattan medical center, where the doctor would expose himself and demand sex.
“I take comfort in the knowledge that he now faces a different judge,” said Terrie Phoenix, who testified at Cruciani’s trial.
He would also face federal charges next January for abusing multiple patients for 15 years at his New York City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey offices.
Cruciani denied having abused 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 complied with a court order at the time of his sentencing placing him in protective custody and on suicide watch.
“None of these conditions, to our knowledge, has ever been met,” Sosinsky said. “If they had, we wouldn’t be having this terrible discussion.”
Benny Boscio, president of the correctional officers’ union, said high-profile inmates are usually placed on suicide watch and checked by an additional officer when they first enter the prison.
“The fact that this prisoner was not under suicide surveillance raises serious questions. Our officers were not responsible for this tragic incident, which was clearly a management error,” he said.
Cruciani died awaiting sentencing next month in a New York state case in which he was convicted of 12 charges, including predatory assault, rape and sexual assault, and acquitted on two other counts. He faced life in prison.
Cruciani’s act “was in no way a sign of remorse or guilt,” said Hillary Tullin, who also testified and who helped fuel the case by calling a sex abuse hotline in 2017. rough.”
Tullin called it a “sorrowful day for all his victims who will never be finalized and will never have a chance to address the defendant directly to tell him how his crimes have profoundly affected their lives.”
Jeffrey Fritz, who represents 30 women who say they have been victims of Cruciani, including Phoenix and Tullin, said many of his clients “feel cheated by the criminal justice system.”
The Associated Press usually doesn’t identify people who say they are survivors of sexual assault unless they give permission, which Phoenix and Tullin have done.
The fire service said it was responding to a call from an unconscious inmate at the jail at around 5:50 am. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him but were unable, and he was pronounced dead at the scene, the department said.
The city’s Department of Correction, which administers Rikers Island, confirmed that an inmate at the Eric M. Taylor Center died Monday, but did not release his name, citing pending family notice. The cause of death is under investigation, the department said.
Prison Commissioner Louis Molina said in a statement he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the prisoner’s death, and promised “a preliminary internal investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding his death.”
Cruciani is in any case the eleventh person to have died in a city prison 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 requesting comment was left with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, who was prosecuting the case ending in his July 29 sentencing.
Cruciani was out on bail during the trial, but was sent to Rikers Island after the verdict.
The complex, ravaged by years of neglect, has been in turmoil since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with a spike in inmate deaths, violence, self-harm and staff absences. The city has said it will close Rikers Island by 2027 and replace it with four smaller prisons located elsewhere.
Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania. ——
On Twitter, follow Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Michael Rubinkam at twitter.com/michaelrubinkam
Copyright 2022 ABC NEWS. All rights reserved.
Follow WT LOCAL on Social Media for the Latest News and Updates.
Share this news on your Facebook,Twitter and Whatsapp.