NEW YORK (AP) — Six women who testified against a neurologist they accused of sexually assaulting them as his patients returned to court on Wednesday to speak out against him, this time in unusual circumstances that ‘they described as a cruel twist of fate.
Authorities say Dr Ricardo Cruciani took his own life behind bars shortly after his conviction and before accusers could make victim impact statements in a potentially lengthy sentence. from prison. A judge urged the women on Wednesday to come forward anyway during a hearing in New York where they called Cruciani a predator and a coward.
“I really feel bad about the fact that Cruciani will never go to jail…or ever be punished,” said a woman who wanted her name withheld. to face as a convicted criminal.”
The doctor, she added, “made me a drug addict and sexually abused me for years.”
Cruciani, 68, was convicted in July of multiple counts, including predatory sexual assault, rape and attempted rape. He had denied abusing patients while working for several major pain management providers during his career.
Prosecutors won a conviction by presenting evidence that Cruciani treated vulnerable patients by prescribing excessive painkillers, sometimes to treat serious injuries from car wrecks and other accidents. His accusers testified that the sexual abuse often happened behind closed doors during appointments in 2013 at a Manhattan medical center, where the doctor exposed himself and demanded sex.
Cruciani was found unconscious last August in a shower at the Eric M. Taylor Center, a prison in New York’s notorious Rikers Island complex. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging.
Accuser Hillary Tullin told reporters outside court on Wednesday that she felt the death deprived her of a chance to expose the doctor face to face.
“I wouldn’t mince words,” Tullin said. “I would have discharged on the 12 years of abuse I suffered at these hands.”
Another victim, Terrie Phoenix, called Cruciani’s suicide “a selfish act” that destroyed her faith in the medical profession.
“I don’t trust myself to stay away from predators,” Phoenix said. “This case proves they can be anywhere.”
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who claim to be sexual assault survivors unless they grant permission, which Tullin and Phoenix did.
The accusers also pleaded with the judge to reject a defense request to overturn the doctor’s conviction based on a legal provision known as “reduction by death”.
Defense attorney Fred Sosinsky made brief arguments in support of the claim without responding to victim impact statements. Sosinsky had argued at trial that the women’s testimony was unreliable and that they were even willing to lie to support their accounts.
The judge said she would decide later whether to keep the conviction.
Prior to his death, Cruciani was also set to stand trial next January on federal charges involving charges of abusing multiple patients for 15 years at his offices in New York, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey.