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What you need to know for 06/22/2017

Final day: Jury finds Raucci guilty; weapons, arson counts likely to mean years in jail

Final day: Jury finds Raucci guilty; weapons, arson counts likely to mean years in jail

Former city schools facilities director Steven Raucci was convicted Thursday on 18 of 22 counts, inc
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Former city schools facilities director Steven Raucci was convicted Thursday on 18 of 22 counts, including first-degree arson and weapons possession.

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said the 61-year-old Raucci faces a sentence of 100 years to life, without even counting vandalism convictions. Sentencing is scheduled for June 1.

The Schenectady County Court jury acquitted Raucci on four counts, including another of first-degree arson and one of terrorism.

The verdicts were met with relief by Raucci’s victims and those he tormented over the years.

Rotterdam residents Steve and Colleen Capitummino — whose home Raucci mistakenly targeted — were away Thursday. A neighbor called them with the news.

“It’s been a long time,” Steve Capitummino told The Daily Gazette by phone. “We’re very happy this came together.

“With all the evidence, we were still concerned, you never know how the case is going to come out.

“He put a lot of people through a lot of pain. We hope he gets the same in return.”

The verdict came in just after 9:30 a.m., following more than 20 hours of deliberation over four days. The jury got the case late Monday.

Raucci stood for the verdict next to his attorney Ronald De Angelus.

The first count, first-degree arson in the August 2001 bombing at the Capitummino home, carried with it a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

The verdict was guilty.

Raucci gave virtually no reaction as the jury’s acting foreman read the verdicts on that and the 21 other counts.

At least three of the jurors cried and wiped their eyes after the verdict was read.

Security in the courtroom was tight. No fewer than 11 court and corrections officers were in the room for the verdict. At one point, there were 13.

Raucci’s wife, Shelley, also gave little visible reaction to the verdicts. At one point she could be seen briefly shaking her head and covering her mouth. She remained in her seat as the courtroom cleared.

Raucci was handcuffed after the proceedings were concluded and led from the courtroom. Court officers told all in the gallery to remain seated as Raucci was walked out, corrections and court officers flanking him and blocking anyone in the gallery.

Raucci served as the city school district’s facilities manager and also led the union unit representing the workers he supervised. It was a dual position that prosecutors alleged made him valuable to the school administration for his ability to keep labor peace.

The prosecution charged that Raucci was responsible for numerous criminal acts, including placing bombs on homes or cars, in a series of incidents intended to intimidate people he perceived as enemies or enemies of his friends.

In some cases, the prosecution alleged, his actions were designed to maintain and solidify his positions with the school district, which included the additional title of energy manager. His role as energy manager helped him earn in excess of $100,000 with overtime pay every year.

The jury acquitted Raucci on the terrorism count, a top-level arson count related to a 1993 Glenville bombing and two lower-level criminal mischief counts.

They convicted on each count related to the attempted bombing of Laura Balogh’s home in Schodack in January 2007, every charge but one relating to Hal and Deborah Gray, two of three vandalism counts related to Ron Kriss, and every charge but terrorism related to the attempted bombing of city schools Athletics Director Gary DiNola’s car.

It was DiNola’s incident that was central to the terrorism charge. Prosecutors alleged Raucci tried to bomb DiNola’s car to maintain his own status, and paycheck, as energy manager.

It was also representative of what became a central theme in the Raucci case: Allegations by prosecutors that school administrators turned a blind eye to Raucci’s wrongdoing to benefit their own interests.

Carney, who prosecuted much of the case himself, referred to DiNola as an effective witness. An emotional and angry DiNola testified in week 2 of the trial, telling of how Raucci terrorized his family and changed their lives.

Carney said, “There was nothing about that, that wasn’t real.”

At one point DiNola even lashed out at defense attorney Ronald De Angelus.

At the press conference, Carney called DiNola an outstanding educator and coach, someone who won a state championship, helped his players on and off the court and “who probably did more for the school district in recent years than almost anybody else.”

“A guy of that caliber, to be driven out of his position,” Carney said, noting that DiNola was already going to retire. “But to basically know, that nobody in the administration would back him up when he conflicted with Steven Raucci and therefore he left, was just very, very sad.”

Regarding the role of organized labor in the case, failing to ensure that the 110 members of the school district operations and maintenance unit were represented, Carney found that sad, as well.

Prosecutors said Raucci became a tyrannical leader, working as supervisor and union head. In that dual role, he was able to work unchecked, threatening jobs of those who went against him and squelching any kind of grievances.

In the final testimony of the trial, Carney gave a blistering cross-examination of defense witness Kathleen Garrison, the regional CSEA president, suggesting clues were there to stop Raucci’s reign.

“It’s a pretty sad picture for the representation by the union for the people that worked in that unit,” Carney said. “Certainly, I do believe there were lots of warning signs and the people at regional and even central CSEA didn’t care about it.”

Defense attorney De Angelus took the four acquittals, two on top counts, as a partial victory.

The defense had fought the terrorism count vigorously, De Angelus noted.

“To the extent that he was not convicted of that, it’s my opinion we have some victory here,” De Angelus said.

Further victory would have to come in the appellate courts. An appeal is expected.

De Angelus noted several areas he believes would make for a good appeal, including jurisdictional issues, and an FBI showing test explosions of similar devices.

Carney noted in his own press conference De Angelus’ reaction when first shown the video in December, that De Angelus told him immediately that the defense had to keep it away from the jury.

De Angelus fought the admission of the video, but was unsuccessful.

“All I can say is that the jury honestly looked at the facts and based upon what they saw, they saw it as a guilty verdict,” De Angelus said, adding he didn’t believe the jury should have been allowed to consider those counts based outside Schenectady County.

“On the whole, though, I think the judge did an excellent job, and certainly the district attorney had a very powerful case.”

Among those at the courthouse Thursday morning was Ellen Frederick, Raucci’s one-time secretary. She had testified to working under Raucci, who referred to her as his “work wife.”

She told of a control-minded supervisor who flew into a rage if employees even so much as used the restroom without asking.

Employee after employee testified to similar conditions during the first of the three weeks of testimony.

Frederick said she told one of the assistant prosecutors that now, with Thursday’s verdict, she didn’t have to move. “He’s where he should be,” Frederick said. “He got what he got coming to him.”

Frederick, as Raucci’s secretary, was present for several pivotal moments in the Raucci timeline: Raucci’s uncontrollable anger at receiving the January 2005 anonymous letter attempting to blow the whistle on his activities; Raucci practicing for his encounter threatening Hal Gray to leave the union; and Raucci’s anger at Ron Kriss for pressing a sexual harassment claim.

At one point, she testified Raucci even told her then, that if anyone was going to bury him, it was her.

It was also Frederick who helped investigators secretly obtain a Raucci DNA sample. State Police Investigator Peter Minahan contacted her in 2008 to find out where Raucci might be eating. As Raucci’s former secretary, she pointed him to several places and times.

Minahan then secreted out Raucci’s fork, left behind on the diner table. It was that fork that gave investigators their initial Raucci DNA match to a cigarette fuse from Schodack.

Regarding her early help, Frederick said she had been living in fear for herself, her three children and her home.

“It’s a relief,” Frederick said of the jury’s findings, “it’s definitely a relief. It’s over.”

Thursday’s verdict was not only the conclusion of a lengthy trial, but a lengthy investigation.

Raucci had been a suspect in the Rotterdam bombing since days after the blast. The bomb was intended for residents down the street, as part of a union dispute that didn’t even involve Raucci.

Rotterdam Police Investigator Chris Foster spoke with Raucci then, after police learned Raucci had been asking for the real target’s address. But investigators had little else to go on.

The case, however, was never closed. Until Thursday.

“It was a lot of hard work from a lot of different police departments,” Foster said after the verdict.

It was the Oct. 1, 2006 vandalism to Kriss’ vehicles that galvanized individual investigations into a larger one. Raucci was an immediate suspect, just as he was in the 2001 bombing.

Rotterdam police called in the state police Special Investigations Unit and Minahan. Task force meetings followed.

By 2008, they were working on the DNA match with Schodack. They were also presented with Keith McKenna.

Investigators had known from victims that McKenna had been a Raucci friend. A disgraced Glenville police officer, McKenna was a recovering heroin addict. He was also caught selling medication designed to fight the addiction.

Minahan confirmed Thursday that investigators in the drug case connected the name to Raucci. It was luck, Minahan said, that McKenna was caught when he was, and that revelation was relayed to the Raucci investigators.

Confronted with the Raucci case, McKenna turned informant. He was never charged in the drug sale.

In his testimony, McKenna said his work on the Raucci case was his own shot at redemption. He secretly recorded three lengthy conversations with his old friend, conversations where Raucci laid out his motivations and past deeds.

The resulting tapes made convictions that much easier. One juror said later said the tapes pushed many of the jurors toward guilty verdicts.

“We owe him a great deal of thanks,” Minahan said of McKenna. “His helping us was invaluable.”

While the criminal case is coming to a close, related civil cases go on.

As many as a dozen people have sued or tried to sue the school district. Another lawsuit is pending against CSEA for related issues.

Among those suing are the Grays, Balogh and Kriss. Balogh and Kriss declined comment this week, citing their suits. The Grays did not return calls for comment.

For the Capitumminos, the wait for a verdict was nearly nine years.

“In a way, I feel bad for his family,” Steve Capitummino said, noting Raucci’s wife and stepdaughter.

“This is justice for my family,” Capitummino said. “We went through a lot. We’re very happy.”

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