An emotional and angry Gary DiNola explained Tuesday to the jury hearing Steven Raucci’s arson and terrorism trial how his family has felt terrorized since he discovered a bomb left on his car.
It was an exchange that ended with a series of objections from Raucci’s defense and a frustrated DiNola lashing out at the defense attorney in open court: “Sit in my shoes, sir!”
Raucci is accused of leaving an explosive device on DiNola’s car Nov. 30, 2006, at the culmination of a school district related dispute.
“It’s terrorized us,” DiNola began emphatically, to objections from the defense.
“It’s changed our lives,” DiNola continued, gesturing with his left hand near the microphone.
“I’m angry,” DiNola said, “you need to know that.”
DiNola testified that on the morning of Nov. 30, 2006 he was preparing for work when he discovered his car tires slashed. During a second inspection he noticed a white cylinder with what appeared to be a fuse tucked under his windshield wiper.
The athletic director for the Schenectady school district went back inside his home and told his wife, Susan, not to be alarmed, but to dial 911.
To view the prosecution's exhibit of e-mails between Steven Raucci and Gary DiNola, click HERE.
The discovery came the morning after a heated e-mail exchange between Raucci and DiNola over use of district athletic facilities. Specifically, it was over key access for coaches. But disputes had been ongoing for a couple years over that and control over athletic field lights.
Both topics, the prosecution alleges, went directly to Raucci’s status as district energy manager and his status with administrators.
But that e-mail exchange wasn’t solely between DiNola and Raucci. It was copied simultaneously to district administrators, including Superintendent Eric Ely, and assistant superintendents Michael San Angelo and William Roberts, according to testimony.
‘Crossed a line’
In one key e-mail, which was forwarded to the administrators, Raucci declares that DiNola has “crossed a line with me.”
“I am not a tolerant person to begin with,” Raucci wrote in the e-mail sent and copied to the administrators at 1:27 p.m. Nov. 29, 2006. “I’m even less tolerant of people who show me disrespect.”
DiNola testified he had the tow truck driver drop him off at work. DiNola then went directly to Ely and told him about what had happened. Ely responded politely, but said that it was a police matter, not a school matter.
DiNola testified he was never questioned by school officials about the incident afterward.
Raucci, 61, the former facilities chief of the Schenectady City School District, is standing trial in Schenectady County Court on a 23-count indictment charging him with numerous incidents of criminal mischief as well as major felonies of arson and terrorism over a period of years. He was arrested Feb. 20, 2009.
Some of Raucci’s alleged crimes were aimed at maintaining and solidifying his position in the school district, where he was also president of the union local that represented the employees he supervised, the prosecution has said. It was his dual role as supervisor and union head that made him valuable to administrators, prosecutors have said. Maintaining energy savings was another role that made him valuable, according to prosecutors.
Much of Tuesday’s testimony centered around the DiNola-Raucci dispute. One district employee testified that on the evening of Nov. 29, 2006, Raucci called him and asked for DiNola’s address, the time of the call supported by cell phone records, 5:20 p.m.
That employee, and others, also testified to suspicious comments by Raucci afterward.
Ely not only was copied on the Nov. 29, 2006 e-mails, he responded to a note DiNola sent with the exchange.
In the note, DiNola cites the key and lighting issues, then said maybe his successor would have better luck. “I give up.”
By that time, DiNola had already planned to retire, he testified. Carney has suggested DiNola retired because of the dispute and attempted bombing, however Tuesday’s testimony refuted that.
Ely responded to that 2:05 p.m. e-mail urging DiNola not to give up, but to work any issues through “the chain of command,” then noting Raucci and San Angelo.
DiNola’s response, at 2:50 p.m., reiterated the issues, that athletes were practicing in an “undignified environment,” one with security and safety issues.
DiNola’s response ended with an apparent reference to rumors, already rampant, about those who crossed Raucci: “P.S. I learned to park my beat up Volvo in front of the security cameras behind the loading dock.”
Two weeks later on Dec. 11, 2006, Raucci sent out a mass e-mail with the subject line “Rumor.”
In the e-mail, Raucci thanks four of the nine people he publicly sent the e-mail to “for reasons of my own. You know who you are.”
Those four notified Raucci of an accusation DiNola had apparently made against Raucci.
“The rumor being passed around by Mr. DiNola is simply a feeble attempt at best to ‘get back’ at me,” Raucci wrote. He then denigrates DiNola and speaks of himself as up front and direct.
“It is certainly not in my character to stoop to Mr. DiNola’s level of spreading malicious rumors,” Raucci wrote.
DiNola’s wife, Susan, in the courtroom for her husband’s testimony, could only slowly shake her head as the e-mail was being read.
That e-mail was also sent to others through the practice known as “blind cc.” In the version projected to the jurors, those blind copied the e-mail were Ely, San Angelo and district technology director Larry Murphy.
The e-mail was not sent to DiNola.
In cross-examination Tuesday, De Angelus suggested the lighting and key issues were valid ones. Loose keys pose security risks and the district was seeing real cost savings through Raucci’s energy management work.
De Angelus tried to suggest to DiNola that Raucci was a busy man, dealing with many administrators, not just DiNola.
Then De Angelus asked DiNola whether he believed Raucci to be a braggart or someone who exaggerated.
De Angelus has apparently tried to set the stage for expected recorded conversations with an informant in which Raucci admits to several acts, including a 2001 bombing in Rotterdam, by suggesting his client often took credit for things he didn’t do.
DiNola testified Raucci would let people know how much influence he had in the district.
“I didn’t take his statements to be exaggerations,” DiNola said.
Also on the stand Tuesday were Lawrence Murphy Jr., the city schools chief technology officer and one time school board member, and technology employee Bruce Turek.
Murphy told of two conversations he said he had with Raucci related to DiNola, both after the attempted bombing of DiNola’s car.
In the first, several weeks after the incident, Murphy said Raucci brought up the incident and asked whether it could have been a warning. In a second conversation sometime later, Raucci referred to the DiNola incident and then said: “If you mess with me, things can happen.” Under cross examination, Murphy agreed with De Angelus that he really didn’t know what Raucci meant.
He said Raucci would take credit for things he didn’t do, like getting the school budget passed. But Assistant District Attorney Peter Willis, in questioning Murphy, noted that Raucci was indeed involved with the budget campaign.
It was Turek who testified that Raucci called him, asking for DiNola’s address on the evening of Nov. 29, 2006, the night before DiNola discovered the bomb on his car.
Turek testified that Raucci often called with issues about an energy management computer. But this time, Turek said, Raucci called asking about DiNola’s home address. Turek had it, reading it off a school board resolution.
Under cross examination, De Angelus suggested DiNola’s address was available elsewhere, including the district’s Web site and the phone book.
De Angelus also suggested Turek didn’t know the reason for the question.
Turek also reported that Raucci brought up the DiNola incident, asking if maybe the explosive device wasn’t meant to go off. The discussion made Turek uncomfortable. Turek said he didn’t tell anyone about the discussion for fear of his own safety.
Raucci has given little reaction to testimony so far in the trial, but Tuesday he appeared to hand his attorney several notes during DiNola’s cross examination and that of his long-time secretary Ellen Frederick.
In all, Frederick testified to a series of admissions and comments Raucci made to her over the years. Raucci, she said, viewed her as his “work wife.”
She testified about an uncontrollable and irate Raucci after he received an anonymous letter in January 2005 attempting to blow the whistle on Raucci’s actions to the union. He accused Hal and Deborah Gray of writing it.
Raucci later came in and detailed damage done to the Grays’ home, emphasizing damage done to their front door. In closer times, the Grays talked with Raucci present about their front door on their new house as their prized possession.
She then told about the trip Raucci took his maintenance men on to view the Saratoga County vandalism scene, a trip taken during school hours.
Word of the trip got back to San Angelo. Raucci was called into San Angelo’s office. He returned later to say he only got his “wrist slapped.”
“Were there any consequences?” Carney asked.
“Not that I’m aware of, no,” Frederick responded.
Fredericks said Raucci rehearsed a portion of comments he expected to give Gray in 2007, telling him to get out of the union and that everything would stop. He returned and told her he said exactly what he intended to say.
In another incident, Raucci quickly detailed damage done to former employee Ron Kriss’ car in 2005 and in the fall of 2006. Kriss had made allegations of sexual harassment and demeaning comments against Raucci and was seeking workers compensation. His car was vandalized multiple times. Kriss has yet to testify.
Frederick also testified to Raucci’s comments about other alleged crimes. She said Raucci in 2005 showed her a newspaper article on the 2001 Rotterdam bombing, then strongly suggested he was the one who did it.
Regarding Raucci’s dispute with DiNola, Frederick testified that Raucci told her in late November 2006 he’d “take care of Gary.” He wanted the dispute to stop.
Then, after the incident, Raucci went on in detail about what happened, where the device was, the slashed tires. He also noted that he believed the device didn’t detonate because it had rained.
Questioning DiNola earlier, Carney asked DiNola, in light of the bomb, and the realization that the district administration was not responding, if he made a decision on pressing his athletics issues.
DiNola said he did. His decision was to stop.
“My family and I,” DiNola responded to objections from the defense, “paid a price for taking a stand.”
Judge Polly Hoye ordered the answer stricken from the record.
DiNola went on to detail the incident’s effect on him and his wife. His wife, he said, bolt-locks their doors every night. He noted they live in the country, not the city.
If there’s a noise at night, his wife has to get up and check for the sound’s origin.