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What you need to know for 09/26/2017

Day 3: School officials, police on lengthy list of witnesses

Day 3: School officials, police on lengthy list of witnesses

Top officials of the Schenectady City School District are on the long list of witnesses who could be

Top officials of the Schenectady City School District are on the long list of witnesses who could be called to testify in the criminal trial of Steven Raucci, the district’s former facilities director.

Superintendent of Schools Eric Ely, former superintendent John Falco, human resources director Michael Stricos and former Board of Education President Jeffrey Janiszewski are on the list, along with the school district’s attorney, Shari Greenleaf, and Assistant Superintendent of Business Michael San Angelo.

Retired school board clerk Richard Yager is there, as well as Lou Semione, Raucci’s immediate predecessor as facilities director. There is also former school board member Brian Ansari, who resigned in October 2004.

Gary DiNola, former district athletic director and an alleged Raucci target, is also among the potential witnesses. (To view the full list of 93 names, click HERE).

DiNola was allegedly victimized by Raucci in a late 2006 power struggle that climaxed when Raucci allegedly placed a bomb on DiNola’s car. DiNola allegedly went directly to Ely, but the school district took no action. Within six months, DiNola retired.

It was that situation that has formed the basis for the terrorism charge lodged against Raucci — alleging that Raucci’s actions amounted to an attempt to influence a governmental body.

Raucci, 61, of Niskayuna, is standing trial on an indictment containing 26 criminal counts ranging from criminal mischief to major felonies of arson and terrorism.

He is accused of planting bombs, vandalizing homes and cars and intimidating victims over a period of years with the alleged goal of currying favor with higher-ups and solidifying his power in the school district where, besides acting as director of facilities, he was also president of the CSEA union local representing the employees he supervised.

Raucci allegedly placed incendiary devices at four homes around the Capital Region. Two of the devices exploded. No one was injured in the incidents.

WITNESS LISTS

There are two witness lists, one from the prosecution, which is being handled by Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney, and one from defense attorney Ronald De Angelus.

The lists were read in court Wednesday morning as part of jury selection.

The aim was to learn whether any of the potential jurors had connections with or knew any of those expected to testify. Those who did were asked whether it would cloud their judgment in deciding the case.

Several potential jurors said they knew DiNola from his teaching days with the district. One woman said she knew Stricos from a previous job.

By the end of Wednesday’s court session, a total of 14 jurors had been selected — 12 for the actual jury and two alternates. Selection is to resume this morning to find two more alternates.

Opening statements are now expected Friday morning.

Raucci’s ties to the school district and the “higher ups” are expected to be an important part of the case against him.

The prosecution list numbers 93 witnesses, while the defense list numbers 19. Some witnesses are on both lists.

Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye indicated that being on the list is not a guarantee that the person will testify at the trial, which is expected to last a month.

The prosecution’s list is divided into three sections: employees of the school district, those affiliated with law enforcement and other witnesses.

The “other witness” list includes current or former union officials and alleged Raucci victims. The list also includes others whose connection to the case remains unclear, including Keith McKenna and Barry McDonough, among others.

The law enforcement list includes state police Investigator Peter Minahan and Rotterdam police Detective Christopher Foster, both of whom interviewed Raucci the day he was arrested.

There are also representatives of law enforcement agencies in Schenectady, Rotterdam, Saratoga County, Glenville and Schodack, along with agents of the FBI and state police forensics center.

Rotterdam Sgt. Robert Denny is listed. He is believed to have been the target of the August 2001 Rotterdam bombing for which Raucci is charged.

The bomb, however, was placed on the wrong residence, investigators believe.

There is also Rotterdam police dispatcher Cindy Chevalier.

Others on the list of potential witnesses are Harold and Deborah Gray, Laura Balogh, Ronald Kriss, Barbara Tidball and Ryan Rakoske, all alleged victims of harassment and vandalism by Raucci. Each is suing the district or has attempted to sue the district.

Tidball has alleged she suffered a pattern of sexual harassment from Raucci. She was also the apparent recipient of a sexually degrading memo allegedly written by Raucci.

Frederick Apfel, apparently another alleged Raucci victim, also is on the witness list.

Raucci is accused of bombing a Glenville home and a car in 1993. Carney has declined to say how the Glenville home was connected to Raucci, saying only previously the alleged animosity was personal rather than school-related.

County property records showed the residence was owned from 1979 to 2003 by Frederick E. and Judith A. Apfel.

Current or former CSEA union officials Joanne DeSarbo and Michael Campon also are on the witness list.

DeSarbo is facing a burglary charge involving a house in Schodack where Raucci allegedly placed an incendiary device.

Campon, along with Janiszewski, is accused in an anonymous January 2005 letter to the CSEA of helping facilitate Raucci’s move to a lucrative new title that helped him earn more than $100,000. According to the prosecution, Raucci believed the Grays wrote the letter, which also alleged that county Civil Service Commissioner Kathleen Heap was informed that Raucci was holding two titles he shouldn’t have been.

Heap is also on the witness list.

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