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Former head of neurology at Drexel University pleads guilty to groping patients

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Dr. Ricardo Cruciani admitted to groping seven patients 2016 while he was chairman of Drexel University's neurology department. His lawyers struck a plea deal that will keep him out of prison. (Image source: WCAU screenshot)

A Pennsylvania neurologist pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor charges of groping seven patients in 2016 at a Philadelphia clinic.

Dr. Ricardo Cruciani is the former chair of neurology at Drexel University. The university fired him in March following an internal investigation.

Lawyers for Cruciani struck a plea deal that kept him out of prison, KYW-TV reported. He faced up to seven years in jail but will instead serve seven years' probation. Cruciani will register as a sex offender and forfeit his medical license.

Jeffrey Fritz, a lawyer for the victims, said “it's because of these courageous women who came forward to the district attorney’s office that Dr. Cruciani will not be practicing medicine and not victimizing any other patients."

What did he do?

The seven women, ages 31 to 55, described "unwanted touching and kissing," according to KYW.

One patient said, "Cruciani tried to force her to touch his genitals and then masturbated in front of her."

Cruciani specialized in rare, complicated cases. His patients often suffered debilitating pain and felt trapped inside their bodies that didn't work.

His patients believed the Ivy League-trained physician was their only hope. The women told KYW that Cruciani took advantage of their desperation.

Have more women come forward?

Cruciani could face more charges.

Police and prosecutors opened a second investigation after at least 17 more women in three states have come forward with similar accusations of sexual misconduct against the pain management doctor. Some of the allegations go back more than a decade.

Hillary Tullin, a former ABC and CBS network news producer, came forward when she heard about the charges against the doctor. Tullin gave the AP permission to publish her name.

Tullin, 45, said Cruciani saw her for three years, then in 2005, "Cruciani grabbed her face and jammed his tongue down her throat."

She recalled cursing and fleeing, according to the AP.

Tullin told the AP that she avoided going back but eventually had no choice. She couldn't find another doctor who could treat her rare condition.

"You have nowhere else to go, and you know that, and he knows that," Tullin said.

The abuse allegedly escalated. Cruciani touched her breasts and genitals. She said she performed oral sex on him at his request, and he performed it on her.

"There was nothing consensual about it," Tullin told the AP. "When you're being held in a locked office with someone for three hours, and you know that that person holds your health in his hands, you make a decision. And my decision was that I wanted to be able to walk again, I wanted to be able to use my arms and legs."

Had the doctor been investigated before?

In 2013, New York authorities closed an investigation into an allegation made against Cruciani by a 37-year-old woman.

The "woman told police he tried to kiss and grope her and get her to touch his genitals," WPVI-TV reported.

Police did not charge him in the case, and there was no reason listed on the report for closing it.

Cruciani's probation starts next week.

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