(CNN) — Ricardo Cruciani, a Manhattan neurologist recently convicted of sexually assaulting, abusing and raping six patients, was found dead at the Rikers Island jail in New York on Monday, authorities said.
Cruciani, 68, was accused of raping some of his patients and overprescribing powerful painkillers to maintain his control over them. The neurologist died on the prison premises at 6:30 am, according to a statement from the New York City Department of Corrections. According to the agency, the cause of death is under investigation.
Emergency medical teams responded to the jail when an inmate — later identified as Cruciani — was found unconscious in cardiac arrest at 5:50 am, according to a spokesman for the New York Fire Department. The man was pronounced dead at the scene, the spokesman said.
Cruciani remained in custody on Rikers Island awaiting sentencing, scheduled for September. This death joins at least 10 others that have occurred at a New York City Department of Corrections facility so far in 2022. And it also marks the latest in a string of deaths at Rikers, a prison known for by reports of violence and brutal conditions.
They call for “an immediate investigation” into the death
Cruciani’s attorney, Frederick Sosinsky, confirmed the death, adding that he had requested that the doctor be placed in protective custody and placed on suicide watch when he was sentenced on July 29.
“To our knowledge, none of these conditions have ever been met,” Sosinsky said in a statement. “If it had been done, we wouldn’t be having this terrible discussion. We call for an immediate and objective investigation into the actual circumstances of Ricardo’s death. Including, more fundamentally, why in the world of corrections he didn’t follow court orders with regarding Ricardo’s location,” he added.
The Department of Corrections said in a statement that an investigation will be conducted to determine the circumstances surrounding Cruciani’s death.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of this individual in custody,” department commissioner Louis Molina said in a statement. “We will conduct a preliminary internal review to determine the circumstances surrounding his death. Our prayers are with his loved ones,” he added.
The Correctional Officers Benevolent Association, a union that represents officers inside Department of Corrections facilities, including Rikers Island, said Cruciani was not on suicide watch.
“Usually when an inmate comes into our custody for the first time and is faced with a high-profile felony, they are placed on suicide watch, which requires an additional officer to oversee that inmate,” explained the president of the prison. union, Benny Boscio, in a statement.
“The fact that this inmate was not placed on suicide watch raises serious questions. Our officials are not responsible for this tragic incident, which was clearly a management failure,” he said.
The background of Ricardo Cruciani
Cruciani was sentenced last month after a jury found he manipulated and abused six patients at a New York City hospital, as well as facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to a release of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg at the time of conviction.
The neurologist, who was supposed to help his patients deal with chronic pain conditions, forcibly groped and kissed his victims before using his psychiatric training to manipulate them, the statement said. Cruciani also overprescribed powerful painkillers to women, so much so that they became addicted, but they could only go to him, as no other doctor prescribed the amount they needed to maintain the addiction, according to the statement.
After a month-long trial that included testimony from victims, Cruciani was found guilty on 12 counts, including charges related to sexual assault, sexual abuse and rape, according to the Manhattan district attorney.
Cruciani, who was also chairman of the Department of Neurology at Drexel University, had previously pleaded guilty in Philadelphia to seven counts of sexual misconduct with patients. For that case, he was sentenced to seven years probation in 2017.