A man who said he was punched long ago by the confidential police informant in the Steven Raucci case told the jury this morning of three explosions at his house that did not appear to match Steven Raucci’s method of operation.
There were no notes or other communications — something Raucci said must always be done to drive home the point of who your assailant is , according to audio recordings played Monday at Raucci’s Schenectady County Court trial on arson and terrorism charges.
The bombs were also placed within feet of their target and blew up at a time when the target was obviously at home. Several other bombs allegedly placed by Raucci did not go off, or went off at times when their targets were away or asleep. In this case, one bomb was placed next to a window in a lighted room where the target was seated.
That bombing happened after Fred Apfel complained to Glenville police about Officer Keith McKenna, who he said had punched him during a road rage incident.
McKenna was disciplined for that incident and had to make an $85 donation to the DARE program, Apfel said in testimony today. When Apfel’s house and vehicles were bombed a few months later, he told police he suspected McKenna, he said.
Raucci is accused of committing the bombings. But his attorney, Ronald De Angelus, made much of the fact that Apfel had never met Raucci.
During cross-examination, De Angelus pointed out that Apfel did not know Raucci, had never heard of him, and had not seen him in the neighborhood.
Indeed, Apfel wrote letters to the police that indicated he thought McKenna was to blame.
After his house and car were bombed on April 10, 1993, Apfel brought up the punching again with the police, writing a note for McKenna’s personnel file and complaining that McKenna had never apologized and was probably not sorry for his actions.
Apfel also questioned whether McKenna had actually made the DARE donation. He asked for a reciept, which indicated the donation had been made on Feb. 2, more than two months before the first bombs were placed at Apfel’s house.
Still, Apfel told police that McKenna might have done it.
When a third bomb was placed on his property, doing slight damage to his pickup truck, he again mentioned McKenna to police as a possible suspect, he said.
District Attorney Robert Carney, who is prosecuting Raucci, questioned Apfel closely to determine whether a bomber could have known he was awake and near the explosive devices.
Apfel said he arrived home from his shift at General Electric at 11:30 p.m. He turned on the kitchen light and then the cellar light, both of which could be seen from the front yard, he said.
He went into the cellar to work on his computer. Then he heard an explosion.
“I ran upstairs,” he said under oath. “I hollered up to my wife, did you hear that explosion? Just as I did that, the front picture window went white with an explosion.” He was three feet away, he said.
The picture window was directly above the cellar window. Both were blown out.
Heavy curtains on the window protected him, he said.
McKenna’s former wife provided an alibi for her husband in the third of the three bombings on Fred Apfel’s property, testifying today that they were on a cruise at that time.
But Lori McKenna offered no alibi for the other two bombings, which occurred on April 10, 1993.
She told the jury that her ex-husband, to whom she was married at the time, was “extremely upset” with Apfel after the road-rage incident.
“He lost vacation time. He had to pay a fine for something he felt he should have not received those sanctions,” she said.
She explained that the incident occurred when she became ill on the way home from a hockey game. She was about to vomit, so she asked her husband to pass a car in a no-passing zone and speed to his parents’ house, which was nearby.
Keith McKenna did so. The man he passed, Fred Apfel, followed him and criticized his driving when he stopped at his parents’ house.
Lori McKenna said she went inside to vomit and did not see whether her husband punched Apfel.
When Apfel’s complaints to police led to Keith McKenna’s punishment, she said, her husband discussed the matter with Raucci.
She also said Raucci told her that he had offered her husband advice on how to handle Apfel’s complaints.
“He said to me on several occasions, ‘I tell Keith not to handle things himself, to come to me and let me take care of things,’” she said.
She added that Raucci explained, “You have a lot to lose and I don’t have anything to lose.” She could not remember whether her conversation occurred before or after the first bombings, but said her husband spoke with Raucci before the first incident.
Her husband remained upset even after Apfel’s house and car were bombed, she said.
“He was upset because something had happened to this man’s house and Keith was being blamed for it,” she said.
Keith McKenna said under oath Monday that he had not placed the bombs, and that Raucci had said he would “take care of it.” On Tuesday, Raucci’s attorney suggested that Keith McKenna placed the first two bombs and that a friend placed the third — possibly made from fireworks — while the McKennas were on their cruise.
He said the friend, Tommy Miller, purchased fireworks with McKenna.
Lori McKenna corrected him, saying that they bought fireworks separately.
“Oh. They shared the fireworks?” attorney Ron De Angelus asked.
“I don’t know if they shared them,” Lori McKenna answered.
De Angelus then asked her whether Miller had gone on the cruise. She acknowledged he had not, and that she did not know what he was doing on June 5, when someone taped a bomb to the back bumper of Apfel’s truck.
The prosecution quickly asked her the same questions about Raucci, and she noted that he had also not gone on the cruise and she did not know his whereabouts on the night in question.
Raucci is on trial on multiple counts of criminal mischief and serious felonies of arson and terrorism stemming from numerous incidents over a period of years that the prosecution says was aimed at intimidating people Raucci perceived as his enemy or the enemy of his friends.
The 61-year-old Niskayuna resident is the former facilities director for the Schenectady City School District and former president of the union local that represented the workers he supervised — a dual role that the prosecution says made him valuable to school district leaders who allegedly ignored many complaints about his misdeeds.
The trial is being heard by a jury and Acting County Court Judge Polly A. Hoye.
The first witness this afternoon was David Kowalski, who said he has known Raucci for 30 years.
It was for Kowalski that Raucci allegedly bombed a contractor’s home in winter 1993. The contractor, Kenneth Legere, allegedly agreed to install cabinets for Kowalski, but didn’t install them. He instead filed for bankruptcy, but only after taking $3,000 of Kowalski’s money.
Raucci allegedly told his friend Kowalski that he “would take care of it,” Carney said earlier.
After the bomb blast at his home, Legere returned the money to Kowalski.
It was that bombing that Raucci referred to in the taped recorded conversations with informant Keith McKenna — the one Raucci said he remembered best, because it had immediate results. The contractor returned the money the next day.
Kowalski testified that he contracted with Legere in November 1992. By January 1993, the cabinets had not been installed and Kowalski had received a letter notifying him of Legare’s bankruptcy.
He believed it was fraud, that Legere had already been in the process of bankruptcy when he took Kowalski’s money.
He reported the incident to the Rotterdam Police Department on Feb. 11, 1993.
Kowalski was angry, he testified. He was so angry that he talked to “anyone who would listen” about his difficulties with the cabinets.
At one point, Kowalski called the contracting business, said he would be down to either pick up his cabinets or his $3,000.
Carney asked Kowalski if there was a threat involved.
“That’s very possible,” Kowalski testified of the 17-year-old events. “I don’t know what I said. I was very angry.” One of those who listened, Kowalski said, was his longtime friend Raucci.
“He says you can’t go physical and hurt this guy, this and this,” Kowalski testified, “You got family and stuff like that. He says either ‘I’ll look into it’ or ‘I’ll see what II can do, I’ll take care of it.’” It was sometime later that Kowalski said he was awakened in the middle of the night by Glenville and Schenectady police. There had been vandalism at Legere’s house and Kowalski was a suspect. But Kowalski had been sound asleep at home.
Kowalski wasn’t sure on the dates of events, including when he spoke with Raucci compared to when he spoke with police.
But, he estimated it was within six weeks of the incident that Legere paid his debt.
Kowalski notified Rotterdam police of the refund on March 10, 1993.
He said he told Raucci of the payment. Raucci was happy for him.
Carney asked whether Raucci gave the impression that Raucci had something to do with the payment. Kowalski said he couldn’t recall.
De Angelus, on cross examination, suggested there were many customers angry at Legere.
LeGere took the witness stand and testified about his contracting business. There was a recession at the time and his supplier was unable to help him through. There were three clients who didn’t get their orders, he said.
The three eventually were paid back. Kowalski was the last. LeGere couldn’t say how long it was between the explosion and his refunding of Kowalski’s money.
But, the night of the bombing, his wife and 10-year-old daughter were upstairs in their Scotia home, LeGere, his sons and a guest were downstairs watching TV.
Then the explosions came.
“Everybody hit the deck,” LeGere testified. “It was pretty shocking.” When the dust settled, two windows were blown out. Heavy blinds prevented shrapnal from entering the living room. The windows were some distance apart, meaning there were two devices placed.
Some of the damage is still visible on the home, LeGere testified. Some vinyl weather stripping was never repaired. The explosion has also been blamed for cracks in his stucco that have worsened with the years.
Prosecutor Peter Willis asked LeGere if there was ever any news item on the blasts, if he was ever contacted by a reporter.
LeGere said there were no news reports.
Prosecutors allege that only a select few knew about the bombing at LeGere’s house. Even the police records were destroyed over time.
The lack of public knowledge of the crime, prosecutors contend, make all the more significant Raucci’s alleged recorded admissions to McKenna, the informant.
The LeGere bombing is not among those charged in the current indictment against Raucci.
Categories: Schenectady County