Victims of neurologist convicted of sex abuse urge judge not to let his suicide end case

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Wednesday, September 14, 2022
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The victims of a once-prominent neurologist who was convicted of sexually abusing patients are speaking out to keep his death from ending the case. Naveen Dhaliwal has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The victims of a once-prominent neurologist who was convicted of sexually abusing patients and then died by suicide at Rikers Island are speaking out in an effort to keep his death from ending the case against him.

Dr. Ricardo Cruciani, 68, was found unresponsive in a shower area at the Eric M. Taylor Center last month, and he was initially scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.

Cruciani was convicted of 12 counts, including predatory sexual assault, rape and sex abuse, and acquitted on two other counts.

He faced up to life in prison and was also scheduled to go on trial next January on federal charges accusing him of abusing multiple patients over 15 years at his offices in New York City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey.

A hearing Wednesday was being held to determine what happens to the case against him, whether it will stay on his record or be dismissed, and the six victims were delivering statements to the judge as to why they do not want the charges abated by the death of the defendant.

Abatement by death allows the family or estate of a felon to move to have the conviction vacated and the indictment dismissed. The basic legal theory of abatement by death is that the initial review of a conviction by the appellate courts is such an integral element of the legal process that if it cannot be completed, the jury's verdict is null and void.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office requested the judge allow the survivors to give their victim impact statements, despite there being no sentencing, and the judge agreed.

The first victim to speak told the judge she went into a deep depression and attempted suicide, and that Dr. Cruciani stole her soul and left her fearful of going to doctors.

She is against dismissal of abatement of conviction, calling it, "One more trauma forced to come to terms with."

The second speaker said she was tortured and crushed by her experience.

"I'm not living, I'm surviving," she said. "He turned me into a drug addict and sexually assaulted me for years."

She also said she is fearful of doctors, won't go on walks and stays at home, and has difficulty with relationships.

"It will take the rest of my life to recover from what that monster did to me," victim Hillary Tullin said. "Abating those charges cleans his record and we have scars and trauma to live with."

The victims said despite his death, they still want justice.

"I'm angry, and I'm relieved because now I don't have to recount these crimes, but he's not going to hear what I have to say," victim Terrie Phoenix said.

Prosecutors said Cruciani groomed vulnerable patients by overprescribing pain killers, sometimes to treat serious injuries from car wrecks and other accidents.

The six women testified during the trial that the sexual abuse often occurred behind closed doors during appointments in 2013 at a Manhattan medical center, where the doctor would expose himself and demand sex.

The judge did not rule on the abatement matter Wednesday, saying she plans to give her decision in writing at a later date.

Cruciani was also scheduled to go on federal trial for abusing patients in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text TALK to 741-741 or visit 988lifeline.org/ for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.

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