In sometimes heated arguments Thursday, Steven Raucci’s defense attorney told a judge that a lower court was arbitrary in ordering his client held without bail.
Ronald DeAngelus argued that Raucci wasn’t given a proper hearing on the matter to confront key witnesses whose testimony prosecutors used to help keep Raucci behind bars pending trial.
But Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney argued that the issue was a simple one, pointing to the two dozen counts lodged against Raucci, three of them top-level felonies.
The top-level felonies are on the same legal par as murder charges, Carney noted, carrying sentences of up to 25 years to life in state prison upon conviction.
“In the eyes of the law, he stands no different than somebody charged with a triple homicide,” Carney said, pointing to the arson and terrorism charges Raucci faces.
None of the charges against Raucci allege that anyone was physically hurt.
“He’s 60 years old. That puts him in the position of a near certainty of life in prison. That criteria alone is enough to support Judge [Polly] Hoye’s decision,” Carney said.
A decision on the appeal is not expected until July 23. Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard Giardino said from the bench that he expected to hand down a written decision then.
The day’s arguments were just the latest chapter in the protracted bail saga involving the retired city schools director of facilities. It began shortly after his Feb. 20 arrest in Schenectady on a single arson charge with $200,000 bond being set and posted. He never saw freedom, as he was immediately arrested on charges from other jurisdictions.
Two bail decisions have followed, as the charges piled on, ordering that Raucci be held without bail pending trial. Raucci has been jailed continuously for nearly five months now.
Raucci is accused of placing incendiary devices at four homes around the Capital Region. Two of the devices exploded. He is also accused of damaging the cars and homes of people who disagreed with him, slashing tires, damaging paint or damaging windshields. One couple reported their car being vandalized five times.
During Thursday’s arguments, attorneys on both sides briefly strayed into the initial bail arguments before being brought back to the issue at hand, whether the decision by Hoye was arbitrary.
DeAngelus strayed to the witnesses themselves, one of whom is believed to be former school district employee Harold Gray, the alleged victim in a number of counts against Raucci.
Gray is one of four people attempting to file suit against the district over Raucci’s alleged actions, something Hoye noted in her decision.
“I have a right to bring him in here and cross-examine him as to his money-grubbing interests,” DeAngelus said before Giardino attempted to focus DeAngelus back on the alleged arbitrariness of the decision.
DeAngelus said it is important to have Raucci out of jail so he can assist in his own defense. It’s a massive case, DeAngelus said.
“This is an intentional attack on the Constitution of the United States, and I believe this will become a leading case in bail in the state of New York,” DeAngelus said.
Carney has argued that the charges are serious and witnesses fear retaliation should he be released.
Carney strayed from the point as well, repeating other aspects of his original motion seeking to deny bail. He repeated that Raucci’s DNA was found on a failed bomb at a Schodack home.
DeAngelus interjected that the DNA allegations weren’t proven.
Carney also noted allegations that Raucci has sworn not to die in prison and would commit suicide and possibly attack others first.
Despite the allegations, Raucci has been quiet and generally non-responsive in court appearances, either looking ahead or down. Thursday, he appeared to shake his head at Carney’s assertion. Raucci also briefly said something to his attorney shortly after.
DeAngelus interjected again a short time later, saying he would make the witness “eat those words,” given the chance to cross-examine him.
But Carney said Giardino need look no further than the three top-level felonies in finding that the bail was reasonable.