Talking to his longtime friend Keith McKenna in December 2008, Steven Raucci made a prediction.
When Raucci was gone from the school district, he’d be a legend.
“They’ll always be talking about what Steve did and what he could do,” Raucci said in one of three conversations secretly recorded for police by his friend.
Raucci was convicted Thursday of 18 of 22 counts, including top-level charges of arson and weapons possession. Sentencing is set for June 1.
Thursday’s convictions signaled the end of one chapter in the Raucci saga, but it is far from over. The trial, and the revelations that have flowed from it, could have much impact in the months and years to come with the community and the school district.
And still there are many other legal and school district issues to resolve.
There are the multiple pending lawsuits against the school district, alleging the district knew or should have known of Raucci’s activities.
Also up in the air are the fate of Superintendent Eric Ely, whether the Rissetto Report will be released and what direction the school board will take following elections this spring.
There’s also still a Raucci-related burglary charge for his alleged co-conspirator Joanne DeSarbo, and, based on testimony, the possibility of enhanced charges.
Ely remains the district’s chief. But e-mails and testimony in the trial suggested he failed to protect his employees from Raucci. Other administrators accused of turning a blind eye to the problems — Assistant Superintendent Michael San Angelo and Human Resources Director Michael Stricos — have retired.
The Rissetto Report, the district’s investigation into Raucci’s work-related activities, has remained mostly shrouded. School district attorneys and some members of the board have fought to keep much of the report out of the public discussion. They even fought a prosecution subpoena in the Raucci criminal case, winning restrictions that were never needed as the report never came up in testimony.
Asked about Ely and the report Friday, school board member Diane Herrmann suggested both could be decided at the voting booth in May. With four seats up for election, the school board could soon look vastly different from its current makeup, which has strongly supported Ely.
Herrmann, who was elected in last May’s election on a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment, has consistently been in favor of releasing the Rissetto Report. With enough board support, the report can be released, Herrmann said. She noted that May 19, the day after the school board election, two of the four winning candidates will be seated, completing unfinished terms. The other two will take office July 1, the start of the new school year.
“I’m still advocating for its release,” Herrmann said. “And I’m hopeful that will be sooner, rather than later.”
Ely has insisted he confronted Raucci about allegations and rumors of wrongdoing, but there was never anything on which to act. But testimony and evidence presented at Raucci’s month-long trial has suggested the relationship was much closer, with Ely even giving Raucci a “heads up” on talk of a criminal investigation.
The revelations have intensified the calls from some for him to leave or be forced out.
In his news conference following Thursday’s verdict, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney suggested district voters take a good look at the evidence presented at Raucci’s trial.
“It seems to me that Mr. Raucci was like a cancer on that school district,” Carney told gathered media Thursday. “There was a lot of harm done and the people who looked the other way or enabled him to have the power that he did need to be held to account for that.”
Ely has been looking for work elsewhere. Herrmann suggested the best solution for Schenectady would be for Ely to get a job elsewhere. Last June he was awarded a contract extension through 2012; his salary in 2008 was $178,668, according to a state data Website.
But, while Ely has gotten close looks from out-of-state districts, the scandal has dogged him.
The school board has a number of options. He could stay on through the end of his contract, he could be bought out, or, if the board found a valid reason, terminate his contract.
Asked about those options Friday, Herrmann said, “Let’s just leave it as I’m hopeful that he’s still interviewing and will get a job,” she said. “I think that would be the best situation for everyone involved.”
DeSarbo court date
Joanne DeSarbo’s legal troubles are also far from over.
The longtime county CSEA local president was named at Raucci’s trial as a Raucci co-conspirator in the Jan. 12, 2007, vandalism and attempted bombing of Laura Balogh’s home in Schodack, as well as later attacks against Hal and Deborah Gray.
Balogh’s home was covered in red paint in the spree. Raucci also placed an explosive device on her door. The attack came after Balogh’s year-long relationship with DeSarbo ended and Raucci sought to protect his union interests by befriending DeSarbo.
DeSarbo faces a felony charge in Schodack, accused of burglarizing Balogh’s home the night of the attack. DeSarbo is to return to Schodack court next month on that charge.
But testimony in the Raucci case suggested DeSarbo may have had a larger role in the attack than just entering the home.
The attack was aided with an outside light being turned off at the Balogh home. The light was always on at night and the only way to turn it off was from inside. DeSarbo still had a key to the Balogh home, according to testimony.
DeSarbo’s phone records showed she called Balogh just after 5 p.m. that day, asking where Balogh’s children were. Prosecutors alleged the call was to ensure no one was home that evening.
The attack was discovered at 10 p.m.
Also suggesting two people were involved in the vandalism were the spray-painted words “cheater” and “cheaters,” written in different styles.
DeSarbo is represented by attorney Kenneth Litz. He was unavailable for comment this week.
The criminal proceedings for Raucci himself have not ended.
Defense attorney Ronald De Angelus, after the verdict, suggested an appeal. He cited jurisdictional issues and video introduced showing what similar explosive devices could do.
Victims may speak
But first will come Raucci’s sentencing. His many victims will have the opportunity to address the court, to advocate for stiff sentences in exchange for the years of torment and fear he put them through.
Whatever the sentence, it likely won’t be a light one.
The most serious charge Raucci was convicted of was first-degree arson, a top level felony that carries a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. The minimum sentence on that conviction is still 15 years to life.
Also, the sentence for each conviction relating to a different date are eligible to be run consecutively. Raucci’s 18 convictions relate to 10 separate dates.
Three other counts Raucci was convicted of were first-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Each carries its own maximum of 25 years.
Run consecutively and with the maximums, Raucci faces up to 100 years to life, all before the sentences for Raucci’s other crimes are considered.
Categories: Schenectady County