NEW YORK (AP) — A once-prominent neurologist convicted last month of sexually abusing patients killed himself Monday at a replacement York City jail, two people conversant in the matter said.
Dr. Ricardo Cruciani, 68, was found unresponsive during a shower area at the Eric M. Taylor Center, a jail at the notorious Rikers Island complex, the people said. They weren’t authorized to talk publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.
Cruciani’s lawyer, Frederick Sosinsky, confirmed during a statement that his client had died, but not the way of death.
“Ricardo’s attorneys and family are shocked and saddened beyond belief to possess learned of his killing while in city custody this morning,” he said.
Prosecutors said Cruciani groomed vulnerable patients by overprescribing painkillers, sometimes to treat serious injuries from car wrecks and other accidents.
Six women testified the sexual assault often occurred behind closed doors during appointments in 2013 at a Manhattan center, where the doctor would expose himself and demand sex.
“I take comfort knowing he now faces another judge,” said Terrie Phoenix, who testified against Cruciani at trial.
He was also scheduled to travel unproved next January on federal charges accusing him of abusing multiple patients over 15 years at his offices in ny City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey.
Cruciani denied abusing women. In court, his lawyer questioned the credibility of his accusers.
Sosinsky involved “an immediate and objective investigation” into the circumstances of his death, including whether jail officials complied with a writ at the time of his conviction to put him in protective custody and under suicide watch.
“Neither of those conditions were, to our knowledge, ever complied with,” Sosinsky said. “Had they been, we might not be having this terrible discussion.”
Benny Boscio, president of the correctional officers’ union, said high-profile inmates are typically placed on suicide watch and monitored by a further officer once they first enter the jail.
“The incontrovertible fact that this inmate wasn’t anesthetize suicide watch raises serious questions. Our officers weren’t liable for this tragic incident, which was clearly a managerial failure,” he said.
Cruciani died while awaiting sentencing next month during a ny state case during which he was convicted of 12 counts, including predatory sexual abuse, rape and sex abuse, and acquitted on two other counts. He faced up to life in prison.
Cruciani’s act “was in no way a symbol of remorse or guilt,” said Hillary Tullin, who also testified and who helped fuel the case by calling a sexual assault hotline in 2017. “He simply couldn’t stand facing the remainder of his life behind bars.”
Tullin called it a “sad day for all of his victims who will never get to possess finality and never have the prospect to deal with the defendant to inform him directly how his crimes greatly 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 criminal justice.”
The Associated Press doesn’t typically identify people that say they’re survivors of sexual abuse unless they grant permission, which Phoenix and Tullin have done.
The fire department said it skilled a call of an unconscious inmate at the jail around 5:50 a.m. Paramedics attempted to resuscitate him but were unable, and he was pronounced dead at the scene, the department said.
The city’s Department of Correction, which runs Rikers Island, confirmed that an inmate at the Eric M. Taylor Center died Monday, but didn’t release his name, citing pending family notification. The explanation for death is under investigation, the department said.
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Jails commissioner Louis Molina said during a statement he was “deeply saddened” to find out of the inmate’s death, and promised “a preliminary internal review to work out the circumstances surrounding his death.”
Cruciani is a minimum of the 11th person to die during a city jail this year. Last year, 16 people died in city jails — the foremost since 2013.
The Daily News was first to report Cruciani’s death.
A message seeking comment was left with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case that led to his July 29 conviction.
Cruciani was out on bail during the trial but was sent to Rikers Island after the decision.
The complex, troubled by years of neglect, has spiraled into turmoil since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with a spike in inmate deaths, violence, self-harm and staff absences. the town has said it’ll close Rikers Island by 2027, replacing it with four smaller jails located elsewhere.