NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City jury was asked Tuesday to consider whether a neurologist used his thriving pain-management practice to sexually prey on six patients or if he is a victim of accusers with false stories.
The case against Dr. Ricardo Cruciani relied on “survivor stories of six very different women,” assistant District Attorney Shannon Lucey said in closing arguments at Cruciani’s trial.
“This is a trial about a doctor who raped, sodomized, hugged and manipulated his patients,” Lucey said.
The prosecutor argued the evidence showed that Cruciani groomed patients by overprescribing pain killers, sometimes to treat serious injuries from car wrecks and other accidents.
The accusers testified 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.
“He didn’t finish writing my prescriptions until I did something for him,” one said.
The behavior was “just pure evil,” she said, adding, “This defendant is nothing but a drug dealer who used his prescription pad as a weapon.”
Defense attorney Fred Sosinsky countered by arguing the witnesses were unreliable, telling jurors, “You should have every reason to doubt these accusations.”
He added that the witnesses “were willing to lie” and “dispute the indisputable.”
Hospital records undercut the witness timelines for the assaults and supported defense claims that they were getting proper care, Sosinsky said. The lawyer also cited loving notes some witnesses had written to their alleged assailant, including one that read in part: “I hope you have a nice holiday. … You’ve truly been the best doctor I’ve ever had.”
Cruciani, 68, has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including rape, sexual abuse and predatory sexual assault.
The jury worked for about an hour late Tuesday without reaching a verdict. It was to resume deliberations on Wednesday morning.
Among the witnesses at a trial that began seven weeks ago was Hillary Tullin, who helped fuel the case by calling a sexual 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 arrest that he “needs to be locked up.”
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are survivors of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Tullin has done.
Cruciani is also facing federal charges in an indictment accusing him of abusing multiple patients over 15 years at his offices in New York City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey.
The federal charges and state trial follow years of public complaints by Cruciani’s accusers that authorities in some places weren’t taking his crimes seriously, particularly in Philadelphia, where he pleaded guilty to relatively minor misdemeanor groping counts involving seven patients.
Lucey, the prosecutor in the New York case, said Tuesday that Cruciani’s accusers should be credited for having the courage to come forward.
“They get to take back some of the power and control that he took from them,” she said. “Each were broken. Each are rebuilding.”