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Ex-Drexel neurologist pleads guilty to sex assaults, gets probation |
U.S./World Sports

Ex-Drexel neurologist pleads guilty to sex assaults, gets probation

| Wednesday, November 22, 2017 11:18 a.m

The three women said they had gone to see Dr. Ricardo Cruciani because the noted Drexel University pain management specialist gave them release from the intractable physical pain that made their lives a misery.

But they left his office with a new kind of pain: emotional trauma from unwelcome sexual contact by a doctor whom they had come to trust.

On Tuesday, the three women got the chance to tell Cruciani what he did to them after the 63-year-old neurologist pleaded guilty in Philadelphia Municipal Court to misdemeanor counts of sexually predatory behavior against them and four other women patients between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2016. He was sentenced to seven years’ reporting probation as a sex offender for his plea to three counts of indecent assault and four counts of harassment by unwanted physical contact.

“What you did was take a part of my soul, and you took it to a dark spot,” said one woman, who described Cruciani hugging and kissing her during a visit to relieve her pain from spinal stenosis and related ailments. She said she has been unable to seek treatment since then, because “I no longer trust anyone.”

“I believed in him. I can’t understand why he would do this,” said the woman, her voice cracking. “He needs help. He’s a monster.”

Judge Gerard A. Kosinski immediately imposed the sentence agreed on by Cruciani’s lawyers and the District Attorney’s Office: seven years of reporting probation to a sex-offender unit, sex offender treatment and registration as a Tier 1 offender under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, which means he must annually report in person and verify his address with the state police for 15 years.

Cruciani’s medical license was suspended Oct. 3 following his arrest Sept. 26. Kosinski also barred him from seeing patients during his probation.

“You’ve been sentenced to 84 months of reporting probation,” Kosinski said. “You’ve sentenced your victims to a life of pain.”

Cruciani, dressed in a gray pinstriped business suit and flanked by attorneys Linda Dale Hoffa and Dana Bazelon, uttered barely audible responses to questions from Kosinski and Assistant District Attorney Vilma Cubias.

Before he was sentenced, Cruciani said, “I’m truly sorry if I caused anyone harm or pain.” After the hearing, he walked to the gallery and hugged his wife, Nora, and kissed her forehead.

On Wednesday, with court permission, Cruciani and his wife will fly to his native Argentina for the wedding of their daughter. He must return Sunday so that he can report to his probation officer.

Hoffa said after the hearing that Cruciani is a naturalized U.S. citizen and there was no reason to fear that he would not return to the United States.

Cubias, who had objected at an Oct. 31 hearing to permitting Cruciani to travel to Argentina, said that country has an extradition treaty with the U.S.

Hoffa said Cruciani intends to “comply with all court mandates, abandon his academic career and the medical profession entirely, and do whatever is in his power to begin the healing process.”

Hoffa said that Cruciani has had a “very long and distinguished medical career” and that she received unsolicited offers from former patients willing to testify on his behalf: “He wanted to express his deepest appreciation for their unwavering emotional support.”

Cruciani’s victims, however, described only trauma and betrayal. Another of the victims told the judge that Cruciani “took advantage of me at the most vulnerable time of my life.” She said she twice tried to kill herself after her experience and was hospitalized for an extended period.

“I’m disappointed that he’s not going to spend one day in jail,” she added.

“You altered my and so many other lives,” said a third victim.

The women’s names are being withheld at their attorneys’ request. The Inquirer and Daily News do not publish the names of sexual assault victims without their consent.

Cruciani, of Wynnewood, was arrested by Philadelphia police Sept. 26, six months after Drexel fired him from his post as chairman of the neurology department in its College of Medicine. He treated patients at Drexel’s Neurosciences Institute at 219 N. Broad St.

The Associated Press reported last weekend that 17 women in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York had accused Cruciani of kissing, groping, and other sexual contact in incidents beginning 12 years ago. Beyond the criminal penalties, civil lawyers present in court Tuesday said they are planning lawsuits against him in all three states.

Cruciani worked for years at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City before moving to New Jersey, where he worked at Capital Health Medical Center, near Trenton, from 2014 to 2016 before moving to Drexel.

He specialized in pain management, especially for people with long-term intractable pain resistant to other treatments. That reputation allegedly made his female patients especially vulnerable to his unwanted sexual contact out of a fear that he would stop treating them, authorities said.

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2016, file photo, United States' Aly Raisman shows off her silver medal after the artistic gymnastics women's apparatus final at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Six-time Olympic medal winning gymnast Aly Raisman says she is among the young women abused by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor. Raisman tells “60 Minutes” she was 15 when she was first treated by Dr. Larry Nassar, who spent more than two decades working with athletes at USA Gymnastics but now is in jail in Michigan awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, FIle)
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Neurologist Dr. Ricardo Cruciani walks from the center for criminal justice after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges that he groped women at a clinic, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, in Philadelphia.
Gabrielle Douglas, of the United States, acknowledges the crowd after receiving her gold medal in the artistic gymnastics women's individual all-around competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Gabby Douglas
In this July 29, 2012, file photo, U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney poses after completing her routine on the vault during the Artistic Gymnastic women's qualifications at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Maroney posted a statement on Twitter Oct. 18, 2017, in which she said she was molested for years by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)
This photo taken May 12, 2017, shows Dr. Larry Nassar listening during a preliminary hearing in Mason, Mich. A person with knowledge of the agreement says the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor will plead guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault and face at least 25 years in prison. The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the agreement ahead of a Wednesday court hearing and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Nassar is charged with molesting seven girls under the guise of treatment at his home and a campus clinic. All but one were gymnasts. The plea deal calls for a minimum prison sentence of 25 years. But the judge could go higher and set the minimum at 40 years.
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