The informant who wore a wire and allegedly got former city schools facilities director Steven Raucci to admit to a 2001 Rotterdam bombing did so under threat of prosecution for a drug crime, the prosecutor said in court Wednesday.
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney told potential jurors that the informant was involved with illegally selling prescription medication, but was never charged.
The informant instead agreed to wear the wire during conversations with Raucci.
During those conversations, Raucci admitted to the 2001 Rotterdam bombing, according to the allegations against him.
Raucci is on trial in Schenectady County Court on 26 criminal counts, including major felonies of arson and terrorism.
Carney made the revelations while asking the potential jurors a series of questions, including their feelings about informants and how they would treat informant testimony.
Carney, defense attorney Ronald De Angelus and Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye worked through the day Wednesday trying to seat 16 jurors — 12 actual jury members and four alternates who will hear the case but not participate in the verdict unless one or more of the regular jury cannot continue to serve.
The day ended with all 12 main jurors selected and two alternates. Two more alternates will be selected today.
Opening statements are expected Friday. But the attorneys’ questioning of prospective jurors revealed some of what’s ahead in the trial.
Carney asked the jurors how they would treat informants who had received a benefit from cooperating.
Some potential jurors indicated they could not believe that testimony.
Carney countered by pointing out they would hear the defendant’s own words, “unfiltered through any memory issue.”
Papers filed previously in court showed the informant, who hasn’t been named publicly, had access to the Glenville Police Department around 1999 when he stole night vision goggles from the department.
De Angelus, in his own questioning of the jurors, stressed the idea that Raucci is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
De Angelus also tried to ask the potential jurors about terrorism, attempting to compare the present case to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but that line of questioning was cut off by Hoye.
She said she would provide the jury with definitions of the crimes alleged.
De Angelus also asked the potential jurors about firecrackers. He has described the alleged bombs in the Raucci case as firecrackers. Carney has described them as illegally made explosive devices.
Carney on Wednesday also indicated to the jurors that many of the alleged acts happened in the middle of the night with no witnesses, but that they would be asked to consider other evidence and testimony.
De Angelus said he was surprised by that and asked the jurors if they believed someone could be convicted on speculation.
He also tried to hammer home the point that, if jurors feels they are correct in conclusions they reach, they have the right to stick to that decision, even if every other juror is going the other way.
“You have an emergency button attached to your brain and heart,” De Angelus said. “If you truly feel that they haven’t proved each and every element beyond a reasonable doubt, you have the right to stop any guilty verdict.”
On Wednesday morning, Hoye introduced the parties involved to the prospective jurors. Each attorney stood up and said “good morning” to the crowd.
Then Raucci was introduced and did the same. Many of the potential jurors responded with a “good morning” themselves.
Before Wednesday morning’s session began, De Angelus and Carney and fellow prosecutor Gerald Dwyer were observed shaking hands.
Raucci was brought in, and then told he could sit by a court officer.
The defendant, who remains in custody, is being watched over by two corrections officers, as well as the court officers.