Multiple sources confirmed that a high-profile doctor convicted of sexually abusing patients hanged himself in Rikers Island jail early Monday.
Ricardo Cruciani, 67, was discovered dead in a common shower area 17 days after being transferred to Rikers Island on July 29, when a Manhattan jury found him guilty of four counts of sexual abuse after hearing from six former patients.
During his trial, prosecutors claimed that victims, including a disabled woman, told them Cruciani threatened to kill himself if any of them came forward to reveal his crimes.
Cuciani was also charged with 18 federal counts of patient abuse at his offices in Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey. He was scheduled to stand trial in January 2023.
According to the New York Daily News, Cruciani hung himself in a common shower area early Monday morning by standing on a chair and using a piece of cloth.
His death was later confirmed by his lawyer, Frederick Sosinsky, who did not specify how he died.
According to the Daily News, there was no floor officer on duty at the time. For months, Rikers has been plagued by reports of staffing shortages.
Cruciani was never placed in protective custody or on suicide watch, according to his attorney Sosinsky.
‘To our knowledge, neither of these conditions has ever been met,’ Sosinsky said. ‘If they had been, we wouldn’t be having this terrible debate.’
Sosinksy also demanded a ‘immediate and objective investigation’ into the death of his client.
Cruciani was a prominent and well-respected neurologist who worked at Beth Israel in Manhattan, the Capital Institute for Neurosciences in New Jersey, and Drexel University’s neurology department in Philadelphia.
His accusers go all the way back to 2013, when he started working at Beth Israel.
Six of Cruciani’s accusers testified in court that the doctor used his psychiatric training to manipulate them and overprescribe opiate painkillers. He would then expose himself or demand sex from patients before writing more drug prescriptions.
Cruciani was described as a “drug dealer who used his prescription pad as a weapon” and “evil in a white coat” by prosecutor Shannon Lucey.
Cruciani was found guilty on 12 counts, including predatory sexual assault, attempted rape, sexual abuse, two counts of rape, and seven counts of criminal sexual acts. On two other counts, he was acquitted.
Cruciani was scheduled to be sentenced in September and was transferred to Rikers Island after being found guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison.
‘When we go to doctors for help, we entrust them to respect our bodies and health, but Dr Cruciani utterly violated that duty,’ Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said after the verdict was announced.
Throughout the legal proceedings, Cruciani maintained his innocence. His lawyers questioned the motives of his accusers.
‘In the end, it appears that the collective weight of six accusers carried the day, rather than a fair consideration of each of their problematic accounts,’ Sosinsky said.
Cruciani’s death is the eleventh in a New York City jail this year. In 2021, there were 16 jail deaths, the most since 2013.
Rikers Island will be closed by 2027 in New York City.