Top officials of the Schenectady City School District are on the list of witnesses who could be called to testify in the criminal trial of Steven Raucci, the district’s former facilities director.
Superintendent of Schools Eric Ely, human resources director Michael Stricos and former Board of Education president Jeffrey Janiszewski are on the list, along with the school district’s attorney, Shari Greenleaf.
The list was read in court this morning as part of jury selection, which made progress with the selection of 12 jurors and two alternates, leaving only two additional alternates to be selected on Thursday. Opening statements are expected on Friday.
Attorneys and the judge want to know whether the potential jurors know anyone who might testify in the case.
Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye indicated that being on the list is not a guarantee that the person will testify.
Others on the list of potential witnesses are Harold and Deborah Gray, Ronald Kriss and Ryan Rakoske, all alleged victims of harassment and vandalism by Raucci. Each is suing the district or attempting to sue the district.
Current or former union officials Joanne DeSarbo and Michael Campon also are on the witness list.
DeSarbo is facing a burglary charge involving a house in Schodack where Raucci allegedly placed an incendiary device.
Former Athletic Director Gary DiNola is on the list. DiNola was allegedly Raucci’s target in a late 2006 power struggle that climaxed when Raucci allegedly placed a bomb on DiNola’s car. DiNola allegedly went directly to Ely, but the school district took no action. Within six months, DiNola retired.
It was that situation that has formed the basis for the terrorism charge lodged against Raucci — alleging that Raucci’s actions amounted to an attempt to influence a governmental body.
One of the first questions the potential jurors are being asked is whether they have any connections with those involved in the case, either through the attorneys, their offices or others.
The list of names included even those with no connection to the case, other than having worked with the attorneys on other cases.
Several answered they were neighbors, that their children knew the children of those mentioned, or they went to school with or spouses went to school with those named.
Most said they it wouldn’t change their view. One woman was ultimately excused.
Raucci, 61, of Niskayuna, is facing an indictment containing 26 criminal counts ranging from criminal mischief to major felonies of arson and terrorism. He stands accused of planting bombs, vandalizing homes and cars and intimidating people over a period of years with the alleged goal of currying favor with higher-ups and solidifying his power in the school district. Besides acting as director of facilities for the district, he was also president of the union local representing the employees he supervised.
Raucci allegedly placing incendiary devices at four homes around the Capital Region. Two of the devices exploded. No one was injured in the incidents.
Part of the case against Raucci was obtained by a police informant who wore a wire to tape a conversation with the defendant.
In court this afternoon Carney revealed that the informant, who recorded Raucci as he allegedly admitted to a 2001 Rotterdam bombing, agreed to the role so he wouldn’t be charged with a crime himself.
Questioning potential jurors, Carney asked a series of questions, including their feelings about informants and how they would treat informant testimony.
Carney also asked how they would treat informants who had received a benefit from cooperating.
He then indicated the informant in Raucci’s case received consideration for his cooperation in that a drug charge was not brought against him. That charge, he said, involved selling prescription medicine.
Some potential jurors indicated they could not believe that testimony.
Carney countered by pointing out they would hear the defendant’s own words, “unfiltered through any memory issue.
Papers filed previously in court showed the informant, who hasn’t been named publicly, had access to the Glenville Police Department around 1999 when he stole night vision goggles from the department.
Defense attorney De Angelus, in his own questioning of the jurors, stressed the idea that Raucci is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
DeAngelus also tried to ask the potential jurors about terrorism, attempting to compare the case to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, before that line of questioning was cut off by Judge Hoye. She said she would provide the definitions of crimes.
De Angelus also asked the potential jurors about firecrackers. He has described the alleged bombs in the Raucci case as firecrackers. Carney has described them as illegally made explosive devices.
At the conclusion of the questioning, attorneys are expected to choose the first jurors out of the initial panel of 21 jurors being questioned.
In court this morning, Hoye introduced the parties involved. Each attorney stood up and said “good morning” to the crowd.
Then Raucci was introduced and did the same. Many of the potential jurors responded with a “good morning” themselves.
Those who survived the cut had indicated they could serve for a month, could be fair and impartial and did not have any connection with the city school district.
The early screening was done to weed out those who clearly could not serve, including those who had already formed an opinion about the intensely watched case.
Hoye indicated prior to the potential jurors being brought into the courtroom that the attorneys may need to do some additional screening on the topic of pretrial publicity.
But, she said she hoped that most of those potential jurors who couldn’t decide the case based solely on the evidence had been excused already.
“I’m not sure how quickly things will progress this morning,” she said. “I guess we’ll just have to play it by ear.”
Before this morning’s session began, defense attorney Ronald De Angelus could be seen shaking hands with Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney and fellow prosecutor Gerald Dwyer.
Raucci was brought in, and then told he could sit by a court officer. Raucci, who remains in custody, is being watched over by two corrections officers, as well as the court officers.
The attorneys are looking for a total of 16 for the panel, 12 jurors and four alternates, to hear what is expected to be a monthlong case.
Categories: Schenectady County