Yet another Rikers Island inmate — a formerly renowned neurologist previously convicted of sex abuse — died Monday morning in an apparent suicide, according to published reports.
The death marked the 12th fatality in Corrections Department custody reported so far in 2022 — 11 of which have occurred on the embattled penal island.
Dr. Ricardo Cruciani, 68, was found unresponsive in a shower area at the Eric M. Taylor Center at about 6:15 a.m. on Aug. 15, according to the Associated Press. Cruciani’s lawyer, Frederick Sosinsky, confirmed in a statement to the AP that his client had died.
“Ricardo’s attorneys and family are shocked and saddened beyond belief to have learned of his violent death while in city custody this morning,” he said.
Citing Fire Department sources, the New York Post reported that Cruciani was found in the shower with a sheet wrapped around his neck. The wounds he suffered appeared to be self-inflicted.
Although FDNY EMTs attempted to revive him, the Post reported that Cruciani went into cardiac arrest, and died a short time later.
The Corrections Department neither confirmed nor denied the details in the Post report, only noting that the cause of the inmate’s death remains under investigation. His body was transferred to the Medical Examiner’s office for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Cruciani was awaiting sentencing next month after being convicted of 12 counts, including predatory sexual assault, rape and sex abuse, and acquitted on two other counts. He faced up to life in prison.
AP reported that Crucinani was also set to face a federal trial next January on charges that he abused numerous patients at offices in New York City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, NJ over a 15-year period.
Six women later testified that the doctor sexually abused them during appointments in 2013 at a Manhattan medical center. He often exposed himself to the patients and demanded sex, AP reported.
Corrections Commissioner Louis A. Molina offered a somber statement similar to those he made after previous Rikers Island inmate deaths.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of this person in custody,” Molina said. “We will conduct a preliminary internal review to determine the circumstances surrounding his death. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones.”
The 11 Rikers Island inmate deaths this year comes on the heels of 16 other in-custody fatalities there in 2021, and amid calls that the island be shut down, its inmates relocated to community-based jails, sooner than the planned 2026 closure.
Deplorable and inhumane conditions for both inmates and corrections officers at Rikers forced the city to agree to a federally-approved reform plan earlier this year. Still, as recently as last month, two City Council members who visited the facility during a heat wave called it a “hellhole,” as inmates and guards endured a lack of air conditioning and other proper accommodations to avoid heat-related illnesses.
Monday’s death prompted stern reaction from the Freedom Agenda, a criminal justice advocacy group calling for Rikers Island’s closure. Tamara Carter, whose son Brandon Rodriguez died on Rikers Island last year, excoriated the Corrections Department for the latest fatality.
“To find out not even after a week of the first anniversary of my son’s death that someone else has died in a shower cell is heartbreaking. Have they learned nothing?” Carter said. “They’re showing us they don’t care about the 27 lives lost before today. This saddens me to the core. How can we start to heal when the deaths continue?”
The incident, like all in-custody deaths, will be investigated by the state Attorney General’s office and the city Department of Investigation.