New York’s highest court will decide whether the state can hold convicted arsonist Steven Raucci’s pension under the Son of Sam Law.
The Court of Appeals last week formally accepted the case involving Raucci and the state Office of Victim Services.
The high court also decided to take the case on an expedited basis, a court spokesman said. That means arguments before the court could happen in January, approximately five months ahead of a standard schedule. Attorneys for Raucci asked the court to expedite the case, arguing the lower court’s ruling against them was placing a financial hardship on Raucci’s wife Shelley, the spokesman said.
The Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court in June ruled in favor of the Office of Victim Services, ordering the seizure of Raucci’s $79,000 annual pension under provisions of the state’s Son of Sam Law. The money has been seized since then. If the ruling stands, the money would be made available to Raucci’s victims, should they win lawsuits against him.
If the Appellate Division ruling stands, it would also mean perpetrators of similar crimes with state pensions could see that money frozen for payment to victims.
The Appellate Division essentially found that the Son of Sam Law, revised in 2001, took precedence over an older pension law aimed at protecting pension funds from recovery. Raucci’s pension, and the state pension of anyone convicted of a crime, have been protected under state law, the state Comptroller’s Office has said.
The Office of Victim Services accepted that argument but instead asked for a ruling allowing it to seize a large portion of the pension after it was paid, essentially skirting the pension protections by using the Son of Sam Law. That law aims to help victims get access to the “funds of a convicted person.”
The state agency then notifies victims of the funds and moves to seize them through an injunction request if victims respond that they have already filed lawsuits or intend to.
In Raucci‘s case, two of his victims asked that the funds be seized. One, the victim of the most serious charge Raucci was convicted of, filed his suit early last year. The status of any suit filed by a second victim was unclear.
Raucci was convicted after a March 2010 trial on 18 of 22 counts against him, 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. No one was injured in any of the incidents.
He is currently housed at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, serving 23 years to life.
Raucci served as the Schenectady City School District’s facilities manager and also led the CSEA union unit representing the workers he supervised.
His appeal of his criminal convictions is also working its way through the process.
The Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office’s response to Raucci’s appeal is due in October, with arguments expected sometime afterward.