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Neurologist convicted of sexually assaulting patients found dead at Rikers

Aug. 15 (UPI) -- A New York-area neurologist convicted in July of sexually assaulting patients was found dead at the Rikers Island jail complex on Monday.

Dr. Ricardo Cruciani, 69, was found sitting in a shower area of the jail early Monday morning with a sheet around his neck, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

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A correction officer first noticed Cruciani was in need of medical attention around 5:35 a.m. and radioed for help and medical staff arrived less than 10 minutes, NBC News reported.

The New York City Department of Correction said that an inmate died at 6:30 a.m, but did not identify Cruciani.

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New York City Department of Correction Commissioner Louis A. Molina said he was "deeply saddened to learn of the passing of this person in custody."

"We will conduct a preliminary internal review to determine the circumstances surrounding his death," he said in a statement, which also did not mention Cruciani by name. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones."

Frederick Sosinky, who represented Cruciani during his trial, said that his attorneys wanted him in both protective custody and under suicide watch, but "neither of those conditions were, our knowledge, ever complied with" at the jail.

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"We are calling for an immediate and objective investigation into the actual circumstances of Ricardo's death, including, most fundamentally, why in the world Corrections failed to follow the Court's orders regarding placement of Ricardo," Sosinky said.

Cruciani was scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 14 after he was found guilty on a dozen criminal counts, including two of rape, seven of criminal sexual acts, one of predatory sexual assault and one of attempted rape.

The case involved allegations made by six female patients over the span of 15 years. Prosecutors said that Cruciani, who operated offices in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, overprescribed pain killers to the women as part of their treatment and then forced them into sexual acts in order to receive more medication.

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Cruciani's attorneys had planned to appeal the guilty verdict, stating that it appeared "the collective weight of six accusers, rather than a fair consideration of each of their problematic accounts, carried the day."

According to an attorney representing 30 women who said they are victims of Cruciani, Jeffery Fritz, the women feel "cheated" that his apparent suicide will deny them further justice.

"It is a sad day for all of his victims who will never get to have finality and never have the chance to address the defendant to tell him directly how his crimes greatly impact their lives," Hillary Tullin, who testified that she had been abused by Cruciani for several years, said in a statement.

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