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Appellate court says state can’t take Raucci’s pension

May 2, 2013
Updated 8:32 p.m.
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Steven Raucci listens during his sentencing in Schenectady County Court on June 9, 2010.
Steven Raucci listens during his sentencing in Schenectady County Court on June 9, 2010.

— Pension payments due to Shelley Raucci, the wife of convicted arsonist Steven Raucci, cannot be withheld by the state Office of Victim Services, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

Justices with the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court denied a preliminary injunction sought by the state to prevent Raucci’s wife from collecting $5,800 a month he receives in retirement allowance. In reaching the unanimous decision, the justices found the state’s Retirement and Social Security Law exempts pension fund payments from being garnished or subject to “any other legal process.”

The justices did note the so-called “Son of Sam” law — state legislation allowing victims to sue for the assets of the criminal who harmed them — appears to supersede the Retirement and Social Security Law, section 110 in specific. But because the issue was raised by Shelley Raucci and not the state, a higher court ruled it couldn’t factor into the Appellate Division’s decision.

“As we noted in our prior decision … that section 110 shields a retirement allowance from creditors both while the funds are in the possession and control of the Retirement System and after disbursement to retirees,” Justice Thomas Mercure wrote in the four-page decision. “Thus, if it has not been superseded by the Son of Sam Law, Retirement and Social Security Law [section] 110 exempts the pension funds at issue from garnishment or any other legal process.”

The ruling all but concludes the state’s attempt to freeze the pension being collected by Raucci, the disgraced former Schenectady City School District director of facilities found guilty of 18 felony counts following a 2010 trial. The state Court of Appeals — New York’s highest court — in February reversed an Appellate Division ruling that had previously seized Raucci’s pension money so it could be used to pay civil judgments for the victims of his bombings and calculated intimidation,

Raucci is now serving 23 years to life at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. He is not eligible for parole until 2031

Alan Pierce, an attorney representing Shelley Raucci in the appeal, was pleased by the latest judgement. He said the ruling should finally end the issue, allowing Raucci’s wife to collect the pension she’s entitled to without fearing it will be seized by the state.

“As far as I can tell, the case is over,” he said Thursday after the ruling was handed down. “I’m happy for Shelley, and she’s happy.”

The state’s case was argued by Owen Demuth on behalf of the state Attorney General’s Office, which did not return calls Thursday.

Pierce said Raucci’s wife has received his pension payments ever since the higher court ruling was issued more than two months ago. The state began seizing Raucci’s $79,000 annual pension after the Appellate Division initially ruled it was subject to the “Son of Sam” law.

Adopted in 1977, the law was crafted after rampant speculation about publishers offering serial killer David Berkowitz large sums of money for his story and allowed victims to go after assets resulting from the notoriety of the crime. In 2001, the law was drastically expanded so victims could go after any and all assets of someone convicted of a serious felony — from any source, whether related to the crime or not.

Steve and Colleen Capitummino, along with another Raucci victim, Laura Balogh of Schodack, initially asked to freeze Raucci’s pension for payment to them should they win their civil cases. Steve Capitummino was 15 feet away, on the other side of a door, when one of Raucci’s bombs detonated at his home in Rotterdam in August 2001. Raucci also visited Balogh’s Schodack home in January 2007, covering it with red paint and planting an explosive device on her door.

Raucci’s attacks were aimed at people he viewed as enemies or those he intended to intimidate. His conviction is now being reviewed by the Appellate Division following oral arguments in February.

“We’re waiting for a decision,” Pierce said of the appeal. “This is longer than usual [to wait], but it’s a big case with a lot of issues. We will wait.”

 
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