Day 21: Raucci jury studies testimony, phone records

The Capitumminos always believed whoever bombed their Rotterdam home would be caught, eventually.

The Capitumminos always believed whoever bombed their Rotterdam home would be caught, eventually.

It was a relief, Colleen Capitummino said Tuesday, when Steven Raucci was arrested and charged with the crime — more than seven years after the family awoke to the bright light of a bomb blast on their front door.

The Capitumminos, like everyone else following the case, will have to wait a little longer to see if a Schenectady County Court jury finds that Steven Raucci was the one who committed that crime and others.

“I just hope he goes away for a very long time,” Colleen Capitummino told The Daily Gazette Tuesday by phone, “so he doesn’t harm anybody else.”

The jury deliberated more than seven hours Tuesday, starting the day at 9 a.m. and ending it just before 4:30 p.m. Deliberations are to resume this morning.

On Tuesday the jury asked for three short readbacks of trial testimony or legal definitions. The rest of the day was spent deliberating.

Raucci himself spent the day outside the courtroom in a holding cell, waiting for the next readback or the verdict. He could be seen in the holding cell, the door open, talking to his attorney, to corrections officers or sitting with his feet up.

Raucci had briefly been on one-on-one suicide watch after a comment to a corrections officer Monday afternoon, Undersheriff Gordon Pollard said Tuesday. He declined to say what Raucci relayed to the officer.

Raucci was cleared of the watch after a discussion with a jail mental health professional Tuesday afternoon and was returned to his cell and normal watch. The concern was the first since the days after Raucci’s February 2009 arrest. Pollard said Raucci was free of suicide watches until Monday.

Early in the case, prosecutors expressed fear Raucci might harm himself should he be released. That was among other arguments to keep him in jail pending trial. He remains at the Schenectady County Jail. Raucci, 61, a resident of Niskayuna, is standing trial on 22 counts charging criminal mischief as well as arson and terrorism.

Raucci served as school district facilities manager and also led the union unit representing the workers he supervised. It was a dual position that prosecutors say made him valuable to the school administration for his ability to keep labor peace.

The prosecution charges that Raucci is responsible for numerous cases of vandalism and worse — in four cases bombs were placed on homes or cars — in a series of incidents intended to intimidate the victims whom he perceived as his enemies or enemies of his friends.

In some cases, the prosecution alleges, his actions were designed to maintain and solidify his positions with the school district, which included the additional title of energy manager. His role as energy manager allowed him to earn thousands of dollars in overtime pay every year.

Among the charges is one count of first-degree arson, accused of placing an explosive device on the Capitumminos’ home early on Aug. 26, 2001. Prosecutors allege the intended victim was one of their neighbors, but a mixup in directions led Raucci to place the device there.

In testimony, the Capitumminos described the experience as terrifying. They had just moved into their new home. To this day, their daughter, now 17, doesn’t like to be there alone.

Testimony readbacks

One of the readbacks sought by the jury related to the 1993 Glenville bombing of Fred Apfel’s home.

The second readback request, which came shortly after the first, concerned the Nov. 30, 2006 attempted bombing of city schools Athletic Director Gary DiNola’s car.

In the 1993 incident, the jury asked to rehear a portion of the testimony of police informant Keith McKenna.

McKenna, a longtime friend of Raucci, testified he secretly recorded conversations with Raucci at the request of police investigators who suspected Raucci was behind numerous incidents of criminal mischief, including vandalism and the placing of explosive devices on homes and cars over a period of years.

Just before 1 p.m., the jury sent a note requesting to hear McKenna’s comments to Raucci after the April 1993 bombing at Apfel’s home.

McKenna, who in 1993 was a Glenville police officer, had a dispute with Apfel and was immediately suspected of the bombing.

McKenna testified that he told Raucci, “… [Y]ou know, it’s [expletive], now I’m getting blamed for this. Why didn’t you wait until June when I’ll be on a cruise?”

The jury referenced that line, asking to hear only that, as it was said by McKenna.

Prosecutors allege Raucci bombed Apfel’s home because Apfel was pressing a complaint against McKenna, Raucci’s friend.

McKenna went on the cruise and Raucci allegedly attempted to divert suspicion from his friend by setting off another explosive on Apfel’s truck in June, when McKenna was out of the country.

Raucci defense attorney Ronald De Angelus has suggested it was McKenna who planted the first bomb and had a different friend place the second device.

Minutes after the first readback, came the second note on the DiNola case. The jury asked to rehear testimony related to the Nov. 30, 2006 attempted bombing of a car in Saratoga County.

The car belonged to DiNola, who was embroiled in a dispute with Raucci over usage of lights on the athletic fields and other issues. Among Raucci’s duties with the school district was managing energy use.

The jury asked for specific testimony related to Raucci’s asking for DiNola’s address the evening before the explosive device was discovered by DiNola.

District technology employee Bruce Turek testified that Raucci called him that evening by cellphone looking for DiNola’s address.

District Attorney Robert Carney has argued, that was Raucci foreshadowing what was to come — something Carney contends Raucci often did before his alleged crimes.

The time and length of the conversation were captured on cellphone records.

Jurisdiction issue

The charge stemming from the DiNola incident requires the jury to first find Schenectady County has prosecution jurisdiction before it considers guilt or innocence.

Along with the testimony of Turek, the jury also asked to see the phone records related to that call between Turek and Raucci. The records are contained on a disc and generally must be viewed in the courtroom.

The court first showed the jury the singular line relating to the call.

The jury, however, followed up with another note, asking for all the calls that followed that call.

The attorneys agreed to print out the page of phone calls. The jury foreman could be seen giving a thumbs-up sign, indicating that’s what they wanted.

The jury reconvened shortly after 9 a.m. getting another reading on the judge’s instructions regarding jurisdiction.

In their brief deliberations Monday evening, the jury asked for that, as well as a readback of the elements of the charge of criminal possession of a weapon.

Jurisdictional issues have become an important part of the case, as several of the charges Raucci faces stem from crimes outside Schenectady County.

Those issues do not affect charges from crimes allegedly committed in Schenectady County, including the first-degree arson count from Rotterdam in 2001 and Glenville in 1993.

However, the alleged attempted bombing of DiNola’s car was in Saratoga County, and the attempted bombing of Laura Balogh’s home was in Schodack in Rensselaer County.

Several of the other charges also related to incidents outside the county, including repeated vandalism at the home of Hal and Deborah Gray in Saratoga County and vandalism to their car in Albany County.

The jury is being asked to consider the jurisdictional issues first. Normally, the county where a crime occurs has jurisdiction.

Carney is arguing Schenectady County has jurisdiction because each of the acts were designed to keep Raucci’s hold on the city schools facilities position or his position as head of his union.

If the jury finds no jurisdiction, the cases would revert to their home counties.

Categories: Schenectady County

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