A lot of people in Schenectady and its environs are going to sleep much better tonight knowing that Steve Raucci will in all likelihood spend the rest of his life behind bars. From there he won’t be able to take revenge on those who provided information or testifed against him in the three-week trial that ended in his conviction on 18 of 22 counts yesterday. Hats off to Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney, who did a great job preparing and presenting the case against Raucci, as well as the jury, which went about its business right and got the decision right. It rose to the occasion.
The only disappointment is that Carney will apparently stop here and not go after the Schenectady school district administrators, including Superintendent Eric Ely, who, as the trial made clear, were co-conspirators with Raucci in his reign of terror. They knew what The Vengeful One was doing, in school and out, and aided and abetted by coddling and praising him, by ignoring complaints and doing nothing. In Ely’s case, he even tipped Raucci off to a criminal investigation.
And as one of Carney’s most effective exhibits, FBI videos of explosive tests, showed, Raucci was a very dangerous man. His improvised explosive devices were bombs, not firecrackers, as Raucci’s lawyer, Ronald DeAngelus, contended. They could easily have killed or maimed their targets.
But, then again, DeAngelus had very little to work with. So he was reduced to minimizing the power of the explosive devices, suggesting that Raucci was a braggart who took credit for things he didn’t do, and asking witnesses if they actually saw him do the things the prosecution accused him of.
But eyewitnesses aren’t necessary to prove a crime, and in this case there was a ton of evidence, which Carney methodically and convincingly brought out through 62 witnesses and more than 200 exhibits. They included personal computer notes and e-mails from Raucci, an informant’s secretly taped conversation with him, and, last but not least, a positive DNA match with a sample taken from one of his bombs.
As for why he didn’t put Ely on the stand, Carney says it wouldn’t have served the purpose of getting a conviction against Raucci (although he says he would have loved to have a shot at cross-examining Ely, as he did so aggressively and effectively with the regional CSEA director, Kathleen Garrison). But Ely might also have shown he had things to hide by taking the Fifth Amendment, or lied, making himself subject to perjury charges.
As for why he doesn’t prosecute Ely, Carney says he won’t rule it out, but as of now, he doesn’t see anything criminal. Knowing and not doing anything doesn’t rise to the level of criminality, he says. Nor does he see Ely’s alerting Raucci to the investigation as a crime, like hindering prosecution or obstructing justice. It’s more like passing on a rumor, he says.
We see it as more than that. Here’s a school superintendent, the head of a unit of government (a point that Carney argued at trial and the judge accepted), providing a man he knew was up to no good with information that could possibly help him avoid detection and prosecution, allowing him to commit more vandalism and set more bombs.
But in the course of nailing Raucci, Carney did also manage to totally expose Ely and the Schenectady school administration. Whether what they did was criminal, it was surely malfeasance.
School board members can’t just sit there, shrug their shoulders and wait for something to happen — like Ely, who is desperately seeking another superintendent’s job, landing one in some other district credulous or stupid enough to give him one. Nor should they wait for the state Education Department to remove him, which it should (because this is bigger than just Schenectady), but never will because it is too lazy and/or timid.
Nor should they buy out Ely’s contract. Instead they should bring him up on charges and fire him. He can appeal, but they will be the ones conducting the hearing — in this case, judge and jury. The Schenectady district can only purge itself and move on by moving Ely out.