District Attorney Robert Carney on Monday pushed back on assertions by Steven Raucci’s defense attorney that the former city schools facilities director wasn’t given a fair trial.
Raucci, who was convicted in March 2010 on 18 of the 22 counts he faced, including arson, has appealed his conviction.
Carney filed his brief in response to Raucci’s appeal on Monday, arguing that Raucci’s convictions should be upheld.
“The trial was fundamentally fair and the verdict resulted from proof which was characterized by Judge [Polly] Hoye at sentencing as ‘voluminous and convincing and at times even overwhelming,’ ” he wrote.
Raucci, now 64, is appealing his convictions on each of the 18 counts, including first-degree arson for detonating an explosive device on an occupied home. As a result, he is now serving 23 years to life in state prison.
Raucci served as the Schenectady City School District’s facilities manager and also led the union unit that represented the workers he supervised. It was a dual position that prosecutors said made him valuable to the school administration for his ability to keep labor peace.
In his defense appeals brief, filed over the summer, Raucci’s attorney argued that his convictions should be overturned on a number of issues. Among them, Raucci attorney Alan Pierce argued, is that 14 of the counts Raucci was convicted of should not have been tried in Schenectady County because the crimes happened outside the county.
Also, the defense brief said, testimony of Raucci’s “managerial abuse” shouldn’t have been allowed and a prior, uncharged allegation of use of an explosive by Raucci shouldn’t have been allowed, either.
A demonstration video used by the prosecution to show the power of the explosives was also faulted by Pierce, as well as use of newspaper clippings the defense argued were inappropriately seized. Raucci also received ineffective assistance from his trial attorney, the appeal argues.
Contacted Monday, Pierce said he expected to file his own reply to Carney’s brief once he is able to read it. The actual appeal is expected to be heard in January, he said, with oral arguments before the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court.
“I look forward to seeing the DA’s brief and responding to it,” Pierce said.
The appeal in the complicated case has been delayed through deadline extensions.
In his brief filed Monday, Carney responded to each of the defense’s points, arguing that evidence was properly used or that the judge’s rulings were correct.
Carney also points out that the defense arguments overlook “the most compelling evidence in this case” — the recordings by police informant and old Raucci friend Keith McKenna.
“McKenna recorded three separate conversations with Raucci, in which he gave complete or partial confessions to most of the uncharged crimes, providing direct evidence of his guilt,” Carney wrote.
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.
No one was injured in any of the incidents.
Raucci is currently housed at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.
Regarding the jurisdictional issues, Carney argued, as he successfully did in the lead-up to trial and at trial, that the counts stemming from crimes that took place outside Schenectady County all were done to affect the Schenectady City School District.
Raucci was convicted of vandalism and attempted bombings that occurred in Schenectady, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties.
Carney outlined how each incident affected the school district, or was designed to affect it. They also affected the community as a whole, Carney argued. Carney notes that Pierce did not argue in his appeal that there was a lack of proof of Raucci’s intent to affect the school district.
“All of the defendant’s crimes, both in and outside of Schenectady, had the same particular, intended effect,” Carney wrote, “to keep him in his unlawful, dual positions, as supervisor of the custodians … and president of the Operations and Maintenance Unit” of CSEA Local 847.
In his other arguments:
*Carney said that evidence of prior uncharged crimes was properly used at trial and that an acquittal on another arson count showed that the evidence was not prejudicial.
* An FBI demonstration tape shown at trial to illustrate the explosive power of devices similar to Raucci’s was properly included. The video demonstrations were required so the prosecution could show the devices were more than just firecrackers, Carney wrote.
* A valid warrant allowed the search of a suitcase found in Raucci’s office.
* Raucci’s trial attorney, Ronald DeAngelus, was effective before, during and after the trial, Carney argued, and much of Raucci’s appeal is based on “trivial items”
* Carney also argued that Raucci’s sentence, 23 years to life, should stand. Carney noted that all the sentences for convictions based on acts from outside Schenectady County were running concurrently to Raucci’s Schenectady-based sentences.
“There are no allegations of improper prosecutorial conduct,” Carney concluded. “The court was vigilant in avoiding any unnecessary inflammatory evidence and the defendant received a vigorous defense.
“The defendant was convicted,” Carney wrote, “after a fair trial.”