D.A., Council discuss recreational marijuana legalization

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (Photos by Michelle Deal Winfield)

By Michelle Deal Winfield

On Wednesday, February 27, the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety held a hearing to call on the New York State legislature to pass laws to legalize recreational marijuana.

Testifying in favor of this proposal was Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance who’d been invited by the Council to discuss the issue.

“Last year, my office prosecuted 603 marijuana cases and this year we have prosecuted just 13 cases,” Vance said. After being questioned further, he added, “My office has decided to devote its resources to enforce public safety. Selling drugs is still an offense and we will prosecute. We do not want to waste money and take NYPD officers off their patrols for minor marijuana offenses.”

Vance also noted, “There are tests to detect alcohol-impaired driving. Unfortunately, there is no scientific test for Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, marijuana.”

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Former Beth Israel doctor charged with sexually assaulting patients

Former Mount Sinai Beth Israel Chief of Palliative Care Division Ricardo Cruciani

By Sabina Mollot

A former high-ranking doctor at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, who recently pleaded guilty to committing numerous sexual assaults of female patients at another hospital he worked at, is now facing charges of assaulting six other patients at Beth Israel.

The allegations include rape, forceful kissing and groping during the time Ricardo Cruciani, now 63, served as Beth Israel’s Chief of the Palliative Care Division. He was employed at the hospital from 2002-2014.

At that time, he was responsible for administering treatment to patients afflicted with chronic and debilitating pain disorders that are hard to find treatment for.

After leaving Beth Israel, Cruciani worked at Capital Health Medical Center in New Jersey and later Pennsylvania’s Drexel University neurology department.

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Biden takes aim at rape kit backlog

(L-R) “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” Actress Mariska Hargitay, United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Vice President Joe Biden at a press conference at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to discuss grants that would reduce the backlog of untested rape kits. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

(L-R) “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” Actress Mariska Hargitay, United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Vice President Joe Biden at a press conference at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to discuss grants that would reduce the backlog of untested rape kits. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Vice President Joe Biden and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch joined Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance last Thursday to announce $38 million in grants that will be going to states across the country to eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits.

The announcement about the grant money, which came from an initiative by the Manhattan DA’s office, was made at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on First Avenue and East 26th Street last Thursday. There, Biden and Lynch also took the opportunity to announce the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance’s separate but complementary grant program that awards $41 million in federal funding for the testing of sexual assault kits, for a total of $80 million in funding to address the national rape kit backlog.

The initiative from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office awarded grants to 32 jurisdictions in 20 states to test an estimated 56,475 rape kits and the initiative from BJA, known as the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (“SAKI”) Grant Program, is expected to test about 13,500 sexual assault kits in 20 jurisdictions.

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