Schenectady County

Day 5: Prosecution key witness in Raucci case is busted Glenville cop

The man who wore a wire to record conversations with Steven Raucci, conversations that have become t

The man who wore a wire to record conversations with Steven Raucci, conversations that have become the cornerstone of the terrorism and arson case against him, was revealed Friday as a man with experience in undercover investigations.

That experience, however, was in intentionally wrecking an undercover investigation, admitting to a grand jury later that he passed a note to the targets, informing them they were being recorded.

Disgraced former Glenville police officer Keith McKenna was identified Friday as the man who wore a wire on Raucci, allegedly getting Raucci to admit to several crimes, including planting explosives on homes.

McKenna was also identified Friday as a key figure in an April 1993 bombing, one of several Raucci is charged with. In the 1993 bombing, Raucci allegedly retaliated against a man who had filed a formal complaint against McKenna with the Glenville Police Department, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney told the jury Friday.

Carney, however, took pains not to identify McKenna by name. The identification was done by Raucci’s defense attorney, Ronald De Angelus.

De Angelus called McKenna a “crook,” a “disgrace” and a “drug salesman,” among other names.

“This isn’t the first break he’s gotten,” De Angelus said of McKenna, “He’s gotten many, many breaks. He’s a very cool and conniving confidential informant.”

Busted case

The other break De Angelus was referring to was in the convoluted case of Garth Russell Johnston and William P. Niles.

That case began in 1999 after four insurance company investigators reported to the state police they had been threatened and asked for help. Someone had videotaped an insurance claims administrator’s children and sent threatening notes.

When state police began investigating, they found the investigators’ license plate numbers had been illegally traced, and that the person tracing them was McKenna, then a Glenville police officer.

As the investigation progressed, it was learned that McKenna passed that information to Johnston, who passed it to his brother-in-law, Niles. Niles’ claim for disability benefits was being challenged and insurance investigators had been watching him. Niles and Johnston eventually pleaded guilty to a federal count of conspiracy to commit extortion. They were sentenced to federal prison terms.

They only went to prison after the FBI took up the case. An initial investigation was closed by the state police for lack of evidence.

The main reason for the lack of evidence was McKenna. He acknowledged before a grand jury in 2003 that he intentionally sabotaged the state’s criminal investigation.

McKenna had first agreed at the request of state police to wear a recording device to tape a conversation with Johnston and Niles in December 1999. But, he slipped them a note warning them he was wired. As a result, they said nothing and no information was obtained. The state police dropped their case.

Later, however, the FBI launched its own case, granting McKenna immunity in return for his testimony against Johnston and Niles. McKenna testified that he unlawfully ran license plate numbers six to 10 times a year and suggested that other officers did it also.

Again, McKenna

The Raucci case is now the second time McKenna has received immunity for his cooperation.

In his own opening statement, Carney outlined how the informant got involved in the case and how investigators got him to cooperate.

By summer of 2008, the state police were involved in an ongoing investigation of the August 2001 Rotterdam bombing, 1993 Glenville bombing, as well as a series of vandalism incidents. Raucci was the prime suspect.

At the same time, authorities on the case got word of a drug investigation against McKenna. He had been accused of illegally selling prescription medication.

McKenna, state police Investigator Peter Minahan recalled, was the same person linked to the April 1993 Glenville bombing.

In that case, the home and car of Frederick Apfel were bombed in April and his car was bombed again two months later.

McKenna and Apfel had an altercation while McKenna was off-duty, and Apfel filed a complaint with the Police Department.

McKenna told his friend Raucci of the incident, Carney said. Raucci responded, “I’ll take care of it.”

On April 5, 1993, Apfel heard an explosion in his front yard as he was working on a computer. His wife and son were upstairs.

Apfel rushed to the front of the house, just as the second device exploded on the other side of a plate glass window. Only heavy curtains prevented Apfel from being injured, Carney said.

Given his documented altercation with Apfel, McKenna was the obvious suspect. Raucci waited until McKenna was out of the country, on vacation, and detonated a second device on Apfel’s car.

No one had been charged in the 1993 cases but investigators used that connection, as well as McKenna’s latest legal troubles, to use him against Raucci.

Key evidence

The subsequent recorded conversations have become an important part of the case. Raucci allegedly admitted to McKenna to the Rotterdam bombing, as well as an earlier bombing.

Raucci also allegedly showed McKenna an explosive device during a conversation in Raucci’s office inside Mont Pleasant Middle School.

De Angelus suggested it was McKenna, not Raucci, who bombed the Apfel home, then had someone else place the second bomb.

De Angelus also accused McKenna of bringing the explosive device with him to Raucci’s office for that February 2009 conversation. McKenna also took advantage of Raucci’s propensity for exaggeration and boasting.

“He’s a crook and a drug seller,” De Angelus said of McKenna. “I want you to take that into consideration, the reward he’s getting here, setting my client up in the manner he did. It’s a disgrace that they’re even considering making use of that evidence in this case.”

McKenna retired from the Glenville Police Department in the wake of the insurance investigators case.

McKenna’s then-chief, Jack Purdy, had said he never reprimanded McKenna because no one ever filed charges against him. McKenna did receive a minor reprimand for failing to file a report that he ran the motor vehicle check, Purdy had said.

The insurance investigators later sued, alleging civil rights violations. The suit was settled in 2003 for $325,000, a settlement noted by De Angelus.

Categories: Schenectady County

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