Six women who testified against a neurologist who they accused of sexually assaulting them while they were his patients returned to court on Wednesday to speak out against him, this time under unusual circumstances that they described as a cruel twist of fate.
Authorities say Dr. Ricardo Cruciani killed himself behind bars shortly after his conviction and before the accusers could make statements about the impact of the victims in a sentence that would likely have resulted in a lengthy prison sentence. A judge called on women on Wednesday to make their statements anyway in a New York City hearing in which they called Cruciani a predator and a coward.
“I’m really struggling with the fact that Cruciani will never go to jail. … or never be punished, “said one woman who wanted his name to be hidden.” She took away from Me the possibility of facing him as a convicted criminal. “
The doctor, he added, “turned me into a drug addict and sexually assaulted me for years.”
Cruciani, 68, was convicted in July of multiple criminal counts, including predatory sexual assault, rape and attempted rape. During his career she had denied abusing patients while working for several major pain management service providers.
Prosecutors won a conviction by presenting evidence that Cruciani treated vulnerable patients by prescribing painkillers in excess, sometimes to treat serious injuries from car crashes and other accidents. Her accusers testified to sexual abuse often occurring behind closed doors during appointments in 2013 at a Manhattan medical center, where the doctor allegedly exposed himself and asked for sex.
Cruciani was found unanswered last August in a shower area at the Eric M. Taylor Center, a prison in the infamous Rikers Island complex in New York. His death was judged a suicide by hanging.
Prosecutor Hillary Tullin told reporters outside the court on Wednesday that she felt death had taken away her ability to tell the doctor face to face.
“I wouldn’t have minced terms,” Tullin said. “I would have dumped on the 12 years of abuse I have suffered at these hands.”
Another victim, Terrie Phoenix, called Cruciani’s suicide “a selfish act” that destroyed her confidence in the medical profession.
“I don’t trust myself to stay away from predators,” Phoenix said. “This case shows they can be anywhere.”
The Associated Press typically does not identify people who claim to have survived sexual assaults unless they grant permission, which Tullin and Phoenix did.
The accusers also asked the judge to dismiss the defense’s request to dismiss the doctor’s conviction on the basis of a legal provision known as “killing to death”.
Defense attorney Fred Sosinsky presented brief arguments in support of the request without responding to the victims’ statements. Sosinsky had argued at the trial that the women’s testimony was unreliable and that they were even willing to lie to back up their accounts.
The judge said he would decide later whether to preserve the sentence.
Prior to his death, Cruciani was also to be tried next January on federal charges of abusing multiple patients for 15 years at his offices in New York City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey.