By TOM HAYS – Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) – A jury in New York City was asked Tuesday to consider whether a neurologist is using his thriving pain treatment practice to sexually prey on six patients or whether he is the victim of accusers with false stories.
The case against Dr. Ricardo Cruciani was based on “stories of survivors of six very different women,” Assistant District Attorney Shannon Lucey said in closing arguments at Cruciani’s trial.
“This is a lawsuit about a doctor who raped, sodomized, hugged and manipulated his patients,” Lucey said.
The prosecutor argued that the evidence showed Cruciani cared for patients by prescribing too many painkillers, sometimes to treat serious injuries from car wrecks and other accidents.
Prosecutors said the sexual abuse often took place behind closed doors during 2013 appointments at a Manhattan medical center, where the doctor would expose himself and demand sex.
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“He didn’t finish writing my prescriptions until I did something for him,” one said.
The behavior was “just purely malicious,” she said, adding, “This defendant is nothing but a drug dealer who used his prescription block as a weapon.”
Attorney Fred Sosinsky responded by stating that the witnesses were unreliable and told the jurors, “You should have every reason to doubt these charges.”
He added that the witnesses were “willing to lie” and “dispute the indisputable”.
Hospital records undermined the witnesses’ timelines for the attacks and supported defense claims that they were receiving appropriate care, Sosinsky said. The attorney also quoted loving notes written by some witnesses to their alleged attacker, including one that read, in part, “Hope you have a nice holiday. … You really are the best doctor I’ve ever had.”
Cruciani pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including rape, sexual assault and predatory assault.
One of the witnesses at a trial that began seven weeks ago was Hillary Tullin, who helped fuel the case by calling a sex abuse hotline in 2017 and reporting that Cruciani had abused her between 2005 and 2013. Tullin told The Associated Press in 2018 after the doctor’s statement. arrest that he ‘should be locked up’.
The AP usually does not identify people who say they are survivors of sexual assault unless they give consent, which Tullin has done.
Cruciani is also facing federal charges in a lawsuit accusing him of abusing multiple patients for 15 years at his New York City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey offices.
The federal indictment and trial follow years of public complaints by Cruciani’s prosecutors that authorities in some places did not take his crimes seriously, especially in Philadelphia, where he pleaded guilty to relatively minor crimes that involved groping seven patients.
Lucey, the prosecutor in the New York case, said Tuesday that Cruciani’s prosecutors should be credited with having the courage to come forward.
“They’re getting back some of the power and control he took from them,” she said. “Each one was broken. They are all rebuilding.”
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