Updated 01/04/2013 07:19 AM
Court hears arguments about pension rights for Raucci's spouse
The State Court of Appeals heard arguments concerning the pension rights of Steven Raucci's spouse. Raucci is the former Schenectady school employee serving time in prison for arson and intimidation. Our Erin Vannella was in the courtroom and filed this report.
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Attorneys argued whether a law that prohibits convicted persons from profiting from their crimes should apply to pensions and whether those assets should therefore be available to crime victims. Raucci's wife in this case, with the power of attorney has been spending her husband's pension for years.
"Isn't this a unique broad based statute that's very unusual singling out crime victims as worthy of getting these funds?" asked New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.
Steven Raucci's attorney said yes in arguments Thursday to persuade the court his defendant's spouse has the right to Raucci's pension, not crime victims.
"With all due sympathy to the crime victims, I don't think the legislature intended to do that," said Raucci's attorney Allen Pierce.
His is an appeal to a lower court ruling that existing amended legislation makes all funds of a convicted person public.
YNN's legal expert Paul DerOhannesian explained, "The Son of Sam Law was changed in 2001, whether it was designed to reach things like pensions because ordinarily things like pensions are protected from things like civil suits and recovery by crime victims."
For reasons why to uphold the ruling, judges challenged the attorney acting on behalf of the Raucci's victims and the Office of Victim Services.
"Why is it better from a policy perspective that the crime victim for instance, takes precedence over the wife in this case?" asked Lippman.
"I don't think that's the question that we're directly pitting Mrs. Raucci's rights against the rights of crime victims, rather the only issue before the court is the main threshold whether the pension is even on the table, even reachable," said OVS attorney Owen Demuth.
It's a question of balancing rights and values and interpreting language, said DerOhannesian, and considering potential consequences.
"State employees do represent a significant portion of the workforce here," said DerOhannesian. "They are defendants, they do get convicted, and it would become another issue for them to be concerned about."