Police in New York City and a New Jersey county had already charged Dr. Ricardo Cruciani with rape and other serious sex offenses that could put him away for decades.
But in Philadelphia, where similar allegations were made? Some officials wouldn’t even return phone calls, according to the women who say they were victimized by a prominent neurologist who knew he had them cornered – forcing them return to him as their only hope for resolving chronic pain.
The women interviewed by northeastern Pennsylvania correspondent Michael Rubinkam gave him the edge on a story questioning Philadelphia officials in a city that supposedly had cleaned up its act years ago after news reports that it didn’t taking allegations of sexual assault seriously.
The story was a culmination of months of reporting. In November, Rubinkam had an APNewsBreak on Cruciani, who had been accused of sexual assault by at least 17 patients in three states. He interviewed three accusers, one of whom permitted her name to be used.
A few months later, police in New York City and New Jersey charged Cruciani with rape and other serious sex offenses that could put him away for decades. But police in Philadelphia did not pursue a felony case, even though some of the same accusers in New York and New Jersey said they had been assaulted in Philadelphia, too.
That set off alarm bells for Rubinkam, who again reached out to two of the women he had interviewed before, as well as four other patients who accused Cruciani of assaulting them in Philadelphia.
Alarm bells went off for Rubinkam when New York and New Jersey prosecutors filed felony charges, but Philadelphia did not.
All six women described what they viewed as a shocking lack of care and concern on the part of city police and prosecutors. Accusers described placing call after unreturned call to the police special victims unit, seeking at first just to file a complaint and make a statement, and then demanding answers when there was no follow-up or movement on their cases.
The women said they felt like they’d been victimized twice – first by the doctor, then by law enforcement.
"That's why people don't come forward, because they don't believe they'll get justice or that anything will happen,” one accuser said. “I can't believe that's the way you would deal with a victim of rape,” another said.
Police revealed to Rubinkam that a total of 10 women had come forward since Cruciani was arrested on an earlier set of misdemeanor groping charges for which he received no jail time. The prosecutor’s office acknowledged the women’s frustration but contended some of the later cases were too weak to prosecute – even though police elsewhere had found their stories to be credible.
A former prosecutor told AP he was perplexed by Philadelphia’s handling of the case.
Rubinkam’s artfully written Only on AP story was displayed prominently on the homepage of the hometown Philly.com, the online portal of the city’s two major newspapers. It was tweeted by Philadelphia’s only rape crisis center, as well as by Philly.com, the New York Post and other major outlets.
The story turned up hundreds of source matches in NewsWhip, and a prominent, longtime Philadelphia TV commentator tweeted:
For enterprising work on a story of intense regional interest, Rubinkam wins this week’s Best of the States award.