A neurologist facing a life sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting patients died by hanging on Rikers Island on Monday, despite directions from a judge that he be held in protective custody and under suicide watch, Gothamist has learned.
Ricardo Cruciani is the 12th person to die either in city custody or shortly after release this year. A source who was not authorized to speak to Gothamist about the death confirmed that he died by hanging. An official autopsy was still pending as of Monday night.
The Department of Correction said in a statement that it would conduct an internal review of the death, which will also be investigated by the state attorney general’s office and the city Department of Investigation. But it was yet another example of what critics called a “deadly” jail system that is unable to keep either its staff or the people in its care safe.
The DOC still has not confirmed Cruciani was the person who died, instead releasing a statement on Monday that said an unnamed person at the Eric M. Taylor Center on Rikers Island had died at about 6:30 a.m. The city's fire department said EMS responded to a call about an unresponsive person around 6 a.m. and tried to resuscitate the patient before declaring him dead at the scene.
Cruciani’s attorney, Fredrick Sosinsky, said a judge had directed the DOC to place Cruciani in protective custody and under suicide watch. He said it was not clear whether that had taken place. The DOC did not respond to questions on that issue.
“Neither of these conditions were, to our knowledge, ever complied with,” Sosinsky said. “Had they been, we would not be having this terrible discussion."
Cruciani, 68, was convicted on 12 counts in a Manhattan court last month for sexually assaulting, abusing and raping multiple patients at Beth Israel Medical Center. A jury found the doctor forced patients with pain disorders to have sex with him, and then overprescribed them pain medicine to keep them coming back for more appointments.
“Ricardo Cruciani abused his power as a medical professional and knowingly took advantage of his patients’ pain,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement after the trial. “We entrust doctors to respect our bodies and health when we go to them for help, yet Dr. Cruciani utterly violated that duty. Dr. Cruciani left in his wake six survivors who continue to suffer from debilitating diseases, and now, years of trauma.”
Bragg’s office did not respond to a request for comment regarding Cruciani’s death.
Civil attorneys were also building cases against the doctor. In 2019, New York lengthened the number of years someone can wait to bring a civil suit for certain sex crimes, though the legislation only pertained to crimes that occurred after it took effect. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed another law earlier this year granting sexual assault survivors over the age of 18 another year to sue their perpetrator if the statute of limitations had passed.
Merson Law, a sex abuse firm that has represented victims in cases against Larry Nassar, Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Cosby, has been seeking clients for potential litigation. Pintas & Mullins, a personal injury firm, also offered to represent Cruciani’s victims. Neither firm could immediately comment on how Cruciani’s death would impact their cases.
This is a developing story. Jake Offenhartz contributed reporting.