When suspected arsonist Steven Raucci placed an improvised explosive device on a Jeep Cherokee in Clifton Park in November 2006, it was near the end of a city school district power struggle, prosecutors said Monday.
The suspended city schools director of facilities helped create the dispute and also helped end it, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney wrote in support of a motion to deny Raucci bail.
“Secure in the knowledge that school district employees were intimidated by him and that higher-ups were beholden to him, the defendant engaged in a power struggle that he won,” Carney said.
School district spokeswoman Karen Corona said the district would not comment on the ongoing investigation and added that Superintendent Eric Ely had not seen the court paperwork.
District Board of Education President Jeff Janiszewski said he had no comment, other than to say that he was not aware of school officials being “beholden” in any way to Raucci and does not believe they were.
Raucci last week was charged with the top-level count of terrorism related to the Clifton Park case, and it was on that charge that a bail hearing took place Monday in Schenectady County Court. Raucci had already been charged with arson in Rotterdam and attempted arson in Schodack. He had been in jail since his initial Rotterdam arrest.
Acting Schenectady County Judge Polly Hoye ruled Monday that Raucci should be held without bail, pending trial.
Prosecutors have waged a weeks-long battle to keep Raucci behind bars, saying they feared retribution of the type in the terrorism case. No one was hurt in the incident on Hatlee Road, Clifton Park, but prosecutors said they suspect worse would be in the offing had Raucci been released on bail.
Included in Carney’s argument were allegations that Raucci has continued to make threats since his arrest, allegedly telling a fellow Saratoga County Jail inmate that he knew who wore a wire against him and that person “has no idea of who he is dealing with.”
Carney stated Raucci won the school district power struggle, retaining complete control over school facilities and the 125 people who worked under him. Carney wrote that the school employee who was Raucci’s target in the Clifton Park incident decided to retire during the power struggle because the school district failed to support him.
The cause of the dispute was not spelled out in Carney’s argument. Neither was how higher-ups could be “beholden” to Raucci.
The terrorism charge was based on a supporting deposition provided by Gary DiNola. At the time of the incident, DiNola was winding up 33 years as a coach in many sports, including varsity basketball, and as athletic director. He retired in 2007.
Carney argued that Raucci be held based on the weight of the evidence against him and his risk of flight.
The terrorism count and an earlier first-degree arson count are supported by Raucci’s own words to others and on apparently surreptitiously made recordings, according to court papers.
Carney also revealed that Raucci is suspected in at least 13 separate incidents involving either explosives or vandalism and more that are simply too old to prosecute.
Carney argued to Hoye that the 60-year-old with no criminal record be held without bail, calling Raucci one of the most dangerous men he’d encountered.
Carney argued that at least six of the incidents involved bombs or explosive devices. “We’re not talking about fireworks, we’re talking about improvised explosive devices,” Carney told Hoye.
Carney also argued that Raucci has told others, even before he was arrested, that he wouldn’t die in prison.
“Should he get out, he would be a grave threat to the community, the safety of others and himself,” Carney said.
Prosecutors have been trying to keep Raucci in jail since his initial Feb. 20 arrest on the Rotterdam arson charge. He was released on $200,000 bond in that case, only to be rearrested on a 2007 Schodack attempted arson count.
Released there, he was taken to Clifton Park and then on to Schenectady. It was during the Saratoga County stay that Raucci allegedly made the threat.
Raucci’s attorney Monday afternoon expressed surprise at the swift bail decision from Hoye.
Ronald DeAngelus had requested a hearing to cross-examine Raucci’s accusers, something prosecutors have consistently refused to allow by canceling hearings and moving on to a new charge.
DeAngelus noted that he doesn’t even know the accusers’ names because they were removed from paperwork provided him.
“It’s sort of unfair. We don’t know how to even attack it or question it,” DeAngelus said.
“We’re not going away though,” he said. “I hope that they’ll indict him quickly and then we’ll take them on.”
A new bail hearing could be held after an indictment is handed up.
Earlier, DeAngelus took issue with Carney’s comments on uncharged crimes. In his own 50-year career, he said, he hasn’t seen a bail hearing touch on so many uncharged crimes.
“The DA can talk forever about uncharged crimes, but the crime before the court is not even an A-1 felony. It’s based on an attempted arson third in Clifton Park,” DeAngelus told Hoye.
But Carney said that the terrorism count, rather, is based on a weapons possession count, which makes it a top-level count. The grand jury is still working, but has voted an indictment, according to Carney.
Carney also told of one incident where Raucci is suspected of bombing a Ford Mustang. Raucci is believed to have targeted the car because he concluded its owner used a key to scratch Raucci’s car at the Rotterdam Square mall, Carney said.
He targeted the car a year after the alleged scratching incident, Carney said. Raucci has not been charged in that incident and Carney did not provide an incident date. Carney said later that prosecutors know of the incident because Raucci told it to three separate people.
Authorities, however, have not been able to locate police reports to support the story. He hoped the telling of the story would prompt people to come forward with information.
It may have happened years ago or not at all, Carney said.
“It’s meaningful because either he did it and he was trying to intimidate people,” Carney said later, “or didn’t do it and nonetheless was using the story for its impact.”