A New York City neurologist convicted last month of sexually assaulting multiple patients, and facing more federal charges of the same, died by suicide Monday morning at Rikers.
Dr. Ricardo Cruciani's lawyers confirmed his death, and blasted the Department of Correction for allegedly not following a judge's orders.
"Ricardo’s attorneys and family are shocked and saddened beyond belief to have learned of his violent death while in city custody this morning. At our request -- and for quite understandable reasons -- at the moment of his remand into custody on July 29, the Court directed that NYC Corrections place Ricardo in protective custody and under suicide watch. Neither of these conditions were, to our knowledge, ever complied with," his attorney said in a statement.
The Department of Correction reported Cruciani's death at Rikers, the 12th so far this year, saying the cause of death was still under investigation. DOC Commissioner Louis Molina said that they will "conduct a preliminary internal review to determine the circumstances surrounding his death."
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A source familiar with the matter said that a reported showed a correction officer noticed Cruciani sitting in a grey chair in a shower area around 5:35 a.m., with a sheet tied around his neck.
Officers then cut the sheet away, and requested medical help, which arrived within a few minutes. A doctor later arrived just after 6 a.m., and Cruciani was pronounced dead at 6:30 a.m., the source told NBC New York.
Sources familiar with the case said the death was being investigated as a suicide. The New York Times and New York Daily News were first to report the details.
Cruciani, 68, was found guilty July 29 of one count of predatory sexual assault, one count of sexual abuse, one count attempted rape, two counts of rape and seven counts of criminal sexual act in connection to six patients who sought medical expertise to treat chronic and debilitating pain disorders.
The conviction followed a months-long trial that also found Cruciani overprescribed serious pain medication in order to keep those patients in his care.
Cruciani was due to be sentenced on Sept. 14.
Prosecutors claimed during the trial that Cruciani manipulated and sexually abused six patients at a New York City hospital and, later, at facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Eventually, Cruciani allegedly developed a personal relationship with each patient, including discussing personal matters and issues. Prosecutors say that Cruciani started physical contact with his patients by stroking their hair, complimenting their appearance and giving them hugs. Through time, however, Cruciani ended up forcibly kissing the women, groping them, and forcing them to perform oral sex and have sexual intercourse.
Prosecutors say that Cruciani then forced his patients to perform sexual acts in order to receive prescriptions for pain medications that he over-prescribed to the point of addiction -- ensuring his patients could not leave his care despite the abuse.
"When patients sought outside care, some doctors refused to see them because of the dangerously high doses they were prescribed. The survivors were left with opioid addictions, sexual trauma, and without proper medical care for their extremely rare and painful diseases," according to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.
Aside from the charges he faced in New York, Cruciani was also arrested in October 2021 on similar federal charges alleging that he was a serial, sexual abuser of women who went to him for help with debilitating chronic pain. The abuse allegedly took place over 15 years at his offices in New York City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey.
If you or someone you know is in crisis now, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.