Denton County, Texas: On Thursday, August 11, 57-year-old Edward Leclair began chugging from a water bottle in court as Judge Lee Gabriel announced that he had been found guilty on the first count of sexual assault on a child between the ages of 14 and 17 years old.
In total, he was found guilty of five courts related to a 14-year-old girl that he was accused of sexually assaulting multiple times in 2016. Leclair continued to drink from the bottle as the remaining verdicts were read.
His attorney, Mike Howard, described him as appearing "dejected and in shell shock- all the things you would expect" following the verdict.
Leclair was remanded to a holding cell to await sentencing and was soon after found vomiting before falling unconscious at about 2:39 pm.
Emergency responders rushed him to Medical City Denton where he was pronounced dead at 3:21 pm. His cause of death remains under investigation.
Howard was back in court on Friday to find out how the case would proceed.
According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, in cases where those convicted escape custody before sentencing, a situation called "volunteering absence," sentencing proceeds. The court must determine if suicide, should that be verified by the investigation, should be considered as "volunteering absence."
"This is something that obviously doesn't happen very often," Howard was quoted as saying. "The judge in her 30 years and probably between us (the prosecution included) 100-plus years, [we] have never come across anything like this. The question is whether the legal thing to do is... declare a mistrial and have [the charges] dismissed, or is there another possible way to proceed?"
Leclair worked as a corporate recruiter and was a former Navy mechanic and was facing sentencing of anywhere between probation and 100 years in prison.
Howard told the Denton Record-Chronicle that he expected that the judge would likely end up declaring a mistrial and dismissing the charges.
"To a legal extent, it does prevent ultimate justice being done for all sides," he stated. "The alleged victim and Ed's family won't get to the ultimate conclusion."
A rather similar series of events is playing out in New York as well, following the conviction of 68-year-old Ricardo Cruciani, a former neurologist and pain management specialist, who had been convicted on July 29, 2022 of a dozen charges including first-degree sexual abuse, third-degree rape, third-degree criminal sexual act, predatory sexual assault and attempted rape.
On Monday, August 15, just before 6:00 am, Cruciani was found dead of a suspected suicide in the shower area of the Eric M. Taylor Center on Rikers Island.
Prosecutors alleged that he had intentionally hooked patients on pain medications which he would then threaten to withhold from them unless they performed certain sex acts.
His sentencing was scheduled for September 14 and he was facing a possible sentence up to life in prison.
People reports that in addition to this case, Cruciani was facing a federal case as well, related to alleged abuse of multiple patients over the course of 15 years at offices in New York City, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. That trial was scheduled to begin in January.
In 2017, as a part of a plea deal in yet another case, Cruciani surrendered his medical license.
His Frederick Sosinsky attorney confirmed in a statement that he was deceased saying, "Ricardo's attorneys and family are shocked and saddened beyond belief to have learned of his violent death while in city custody this morning."
Citing court orders that Cruciani be placed into protective custody and placed under suicide watch, Sosinsky called for "an immediate and objective investigation" alleging "Neither of these conditions were, to our knowledge, ever complied with. Had they been, we would not be having this terrible discussion."
One of the victims that testified against him, Terrie Phoenix, stated, "I take comfort knowing he now faces another Judge."