Raucci given 23 years to life (with photo gallery, video)
Victims tell of fear, emotional trauma
Updated 12:31 p.m.
SCHENECTADY Steven Raucci’s victims told Tuesday of how Raucci’s crimes had affected them, the sleepless nights, the fear of what Raucci would do next, the constant threats and worst of all, how it affected their families.
They asked acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye to give Raucci the maximum sentence allowed for arson and weapons convictions. Hoye ultimately imposed a sentence far less than the maximum, a total sentence of 23 years to life. The maximum would have sent Raucci to prison for life.
Deborah Gray told of how she watched as her husband, rifle in hand, investigated dead-of-night noises they feared were Raucci. She never knew if he would come back.
Laura Balogh spoke of the emotional trauma suffered by her children. Balogh’s daughter, she told the court, didn’t want to go off to college, for fear of leaving her mother alone. There was also the time her daughter woke up screaming, believing her mother had been killed, an incident Balogh could hardly recount before she choked up.
Ron Kriss spoke of his elderly parents, who lived with him in Rotterdam as Raucci continued his threats.
His family lived in constant fear, he said.
His father, Kriss told Hoye, passed away in April 2008, less than a year before Raucci was arrested. Raucci’s actions tormented Kriss’ father until the day he died, Kriss said.
“My father died not knowing if my mother would be safe,” an emotional Kriss told the judge. “For me, and in front of this court and God, there is no forgiveness for this.”
Raucci also had his say, but spoke through his attorney. Defense attorney Ronald De Angelus read into the record a statement from his client in which Raucci maintained his innocence. His statement gave an account markedly different from the one on secretly-recorded tapes made by an old friend-turned-informant.
In handing down her sentence, Hoye called the evidence against Raucci at the four-week trial “voluminous and convincing and, at times, even overwhelming.”
The sentence Hoye gave was largely one with concurrent sentences, time that will run together. But there were two exceptions. Raucci received 20 years to life for first-degree arson. Two consecutive sentences, for vandalism done to Kriss’ vehicles and attempted coercion of another victim, tacked on three years to the minimum.
The sentence means the 61-year-old Raucci won’t be eligible for parole until February 2032, when he’s 83 years old. He has been incarcerated since his arrest in February 2009 and will receive credit for time served.
Tuesday’s sentencing came two months after a Schenectady County jury found Raucci guilty of 18 of 22 counts lodged against him.
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 served as the city school district’s facilities manager and also led the union unit representing the workers he supervised.
DA seeks punishment
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney told the judge his calculation of the maximum allowed was more than 118-years-to-life.
In his remarks, Carney listed items that may have been in Raucci’s favor, including his status as a Vietnam veteran.
But, he said, anything in Raucci’s favor was far outweighed by the emotional pain Raucci caused, the number of crimes he committed and Raucci’s demonstrated inability to be rehabilitated.
Carney, who personally prosecuted Raucci, also recounted the continuing crimes of which Raucci was convicted — vandalism, coercion, bombings and attempted bombings.
“You have an unremitting, continuing course of behavior. It is what he does, it is what he always does,” Carney said.
Carney did not ask for a specific number, but he asked for sentences that reflected the repeated nature of Raucci’s crimes, and sentences that reflected his many victims.
“All were harmed as he intended. All were intimidated. All were traumatized,” Carney told the judge. “Their pain, their fear, their loss of security and their economic loss shouldn’t be lumped together, running together.
“He deserves it. He earned it. And consecutive sentencing sends the right message to the victims, to him and to the community.”
Raucci received his sentence in a courtroom packed with reporters, family and friends, victims and investigators. Some Raucci supporters wrote letters on Raucci’s behalf.
Among those not present were Raucci’s wife and stepdaughter. De Angelus did not have an explanation for their absence but speculated they didn’t want to hear what was to be said.
De Angelus made no comments of his own in court. De Angelus later filed Raucci’s notice of appeal.
In Raucci’s statement, Raucci told of how he suffered the “emotional stigma” of having the word “terrorist” associated with him and his family. Raucci was acquitted of a top-level terrorism charge.
“I don’t think anyone in this courtroom would ever understand or feel what it is like to be called a terrorist and then having to remain silent for as long as I did,” Raucci wrote.
He did not address his convictions related to the Grays, Balogh or Kriss. He only generally called them “so-called victims,” saying that he’d given jobs or saved jobs for most of them.
But the case he focused on was the 2001 bombing in Rotterdam on Shardon Court that resulted in his 20-years-to-life sentence. He told the court flat out he did not commit the crime.
“I was never worried about being convicted for Shardon Court,” Raucci wrote, “because I was never there.” During his trial Raucci did not testify or subject himself to cross-examination.
Regarding the intended target, Raucci said he didn’t even know the man’s name. He just knew he didn’t commit the crime.
His public statement was in stark contrast to private comments made to his friend Keith McKenna 18 months earlier. The comments were included in secretly recorded tapes that have been called the key to the convictions.
On one tape recording in December 2008, Raucci tells McKenna about the Shardon Court bombing, “You know, I did that for somebody else. He was an [expletive] and that was the bottom line.” Raucci never mentioned the intended victim by name.
Hoye responded to Raucci’s in-court comments by noting that his view of the evidence was different from hers. She noted Raucci’s own documents, e-mails and the tapes portrayed a different person from the one portrayed in Raucci’s statement.
The evidence, she said, demonstrated a concerted effort by Raucci to acquire control of people for his own aggrandizement. The criminal acts were committed to inflict the maximum discomfort to his victims.
“You took pleasure in their suffering and fear,” Hoye told Raucci. “You seemed to think that you were invincible, apparently convinced that you had obtained enough power so that no one would have the courage to challenge or accuse you.”
The judge added later, “I hope you spend enough time incarcerated to gain some insight into the destructive and evil path that your life has taken over the last decade or more.
“From the tone of your letter, which Mr. De Angelus read today, it seems like that will be a long process.”
Raucci’s sentence aside, the heart of the proceedings Tuesday were the victim statements.
Four victims spoke. The other victims — former city schools athletic director Gary DiNola and the Capitummino family — passed on the opportunity to speak. The Capitumminos were the 2001 Rotterdam bombing victims, although their house was bombed by mistake. Raucci’s intended victim lived down the street. The Capitumminos were present for the sentencing; DiNola was not.
Those who did speak were emotional and direct.
Hal Gray, victim of repeated vandalism and attempted coercion, had pointed remarks. A Vietnam veteran himself, Gray called fellow Vietnam veteran Raucci a “total disgrace” to all veterans. Gray also called Raucci a coward.
“He has always been a coward,” Gray told the court, as Raucci sat looking forward without reaction. “And that is why he attacks people when they are the most vulnerable, at night, while they are sleeping.”
Gray’s wife Deborah said, “I’m not ashamed to tell the world what he did to our lives, our children.”
Balogh focused her attention on Raucci and his unindicted co-conspirator Joanne DeSarbo, the former union local president who allegedly helped protect Raucci.
It was because of a breakup between Balogh and DeSarbo that Raucci vandalized her house and left an explosive device that was found by Balogh’s daughter. DeSarbo is still facing a burglary charge related to the crime.
“It is deeply disturbing that a human being could take blind vengeance on an innocent family based upon another’s lies and deceptions,” Balogh told the court.
All the victims thanked investigators and prosecutors, including state police Investigator Peter Minahan. Kriss specifically thanked Minahan for watching over his home during his father’s funeral to ensure Raucci didn’t strike as he buried his father.