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Neurologist pleads guilty to charges he groped patients at Philly clinic

PHILADELPHIA -- A neurologist facing allegations of sexual misconduct in three states pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor charges that he groped women at a Philadelphia clinic. 

Dr. Ricardo Cruciani, 63, admitted that he assaulted seven patients in 2016 while he was chairman of Drexel University's neurology department and pleaded guilty to varying charges of indecent assault and harassment. Under a plea agreement, he will serve seven years' probation, register as a sex offender and forfeit his medical license.

Three former patients gave statements during the hearing. They said they had believed they'd found refuge from debilitating illnesses in the Ivy League-trained neurologist, who specializes in rare, complicated syndromes. 

Instead, the women said, he touched them inappropriately, whispered seductively in at least one woman's ear and took advantage of the fact that they had few other health care options. They said that their interactions with Cruciani made them distrustful of medical professionals, especially male doctors, and were upset that he wasn't going to be jailed.

Sara Hicks, one of the women who spoke during the hearing, said that he began touching her breasts in 2015 after she told him that she was pregnant. She called the experience "devastating."

"This wasn't some drunk frat boy," said Hicks, 31. "This was a well-respected doctor."

Cruciani did not look at the women as they spoke. He later apologized to the judge in his only statement of the hearing.

"I'm truly sorry if I caused any harm or any pain," said Cruciani, who at first mistakenly sat in the courtroom gallery when he was called in by the judge, apparently unaware that he was supposed to sit beside his attorney.

In handing down the sentence, Municipal Court Judge Gerard A. Kosinski said that Cruciani had imposed on his victims "a lifetime of pain."

His attorney, Linda Dale Hoffa, said that Cruciani "fully accepts responsibility."

"He will 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," she said.

He also will be allowed to travel to Argentina for his daughter's wedding on an unsecured $100,000,000 bond.

A Philadelphia police affidavit said Cruciani assaulted seven women who were between the ages of 31 and 55 and described unwanted touching and kissing. One patient said Cruciani tried to force her to touch his genitals and then masturbated in front of her.

Drexel fired him in March after an internal investigation.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that at least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have stepped forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct in incidents that go back at least a dozen years.

The accusers have either reported him to police or retained an attorney to pursue civil claims.

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