Doctors & Sexual Assault

This blog has covered a lot of white-collar and health care crime recently. Today, we shake things up (perhaps only slightly) by covering a case that combines white collar, health care, and basic crimes all in one. In light of the #metoo movement, allegations of sexual assault and harassment are everywhere. Unfortunately, in this case, the allegations focus on a doctor accused of abusing his position of power over various female patients. The Manhattan D.A. recently announced a grand jury has indicted one former neurologist for sexually assaulting six female patients in his care.

Doctor Ricardo Cruciana, age 63, worked at Mount Sinai Beth Israel when these activities are alleged to have occurred. According to the evidence and the record, from 2002 to 2014, the doctor served as Chief of the Palliative Care Division in the Hospital. He was charged with caring for patients who had chronic and often debilitating pain disorders. Around 2013, Cruciani is alleged to have sexually assaulted the first female victim, totaling six patients in all in one year. The victims accuse him of forcefully kissing them, groping them, and even having non-consensual sex.

One victim reported the conduct to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Hotline. After an investigation, Cruciani was ultimately arrested in Pennsylvania and extradited to New York City. The indictment has charged the neurologist with Rape in the First and Third Degree, Criminal Sexual Act in the First and Third Degrees, Attempted Rape in the First Degree, Sexual Abuse in the First Degree and Aggravated Sexual Abuse in the Fourth Degree.

Of course, this is not the first instance of a doctor assaulting his patients, even in Manhattan. In fact, two years earlier, another doctor from the same hospital was indicted for the sexual abuse of his female patients around the same time period. According to a grand jury’s indictment, Dr. David Newman, age 45, was an emergency room physician who sexually abused four women in his care between August 2015 and January 2016. In one case, a woman was seeking treatment for shoulder pain. He sedated her with additional medication, rendering her physically helpless while he sexually abused her. Dr. Newman masturbated next to her while she was sedated, and ejaculated on her face. The DNA from the woman’s eye and cheek was matched to the doctor. In 2017, Dr. Newman was sentenced to two years in prison, three years of post-release supervision and will be required to register as a sex offender.

Sexual misconduct is becoming reported more frequently. The DA announced a “#MeToo” team in his office to target workplace sexual violence. The Sex Crimes Hotline has been flooded with complaints about harassment on the job. From January to October of 2017, there were 20 calls to the hotline. Since October 2017, there have been 120 calls. Individuals accused of sexual harassment and assault can face both criminal and civil liability. They will almost always pay some sort of price as to their reputations too. As the #MeToo movement grows, it will be crucial for lawyers and judges to ensure that due process is meted out fairly during litigation. The court of public opinion can be brutal but should have no bearing on the outcome of cases fought in the courtroom. Selecting a jury for sexually-based crimes in this era should be done vigilantly to ensure there is no unfair bias – particularly in those cases that have received widespread media coverage. The #metoo movement is absolutely a positive one, but legal professionals should take care to ensure it does not unfairly bias our justice system.

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