Judge: Crime victims cannot claim pensions

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ALBANY -- A midlevel court ruling that New York crime victims can claim their attackers' pensions was thrown out yesterday by the state's highest court on a technicality.

The Court of Appeals said it must wait for another case to determine if New York's "Son of Sam Law" trumps the retirement statute shielding pensions, noting that it is an important question. "Meanwhile, nothing prevents the Legislature from amending one or both statutes to make its intention clear," the five judges wrote.

The Son of Sam Law, amended in 2001, was designed to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes, including "income generated as a result of having committed the crime." The retirement law says a pension or retirement allowance "shall not be subject to execution, garnishment, attachment, or any other process whatsoever."

Yesterday's ruling reversed the midlevel Appellate Division ruling last year to freeze Steven Raucci's pension in his prison account, sending the case back for further consideration.

"As things stand right now, there is no injunction holding Mr. Raucci's pension funds," his attorney Alan Pierce said yesterday.

Yesterday's ruling specifically concerned two victims of Raucci, a former Schenectady school district facilities director convicted of arson and possessing explosives. In 2010, Raucci was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison.

A lawsuit to freeze Raucci's $5,800 monthly pension checks was brought by the state Office of Victim Services, intending to preserve the funds after two victims said they intended to sue him.

A judge initially sided with Raucci and his wife, saying that claim was precluded by the state's Retirement and Social Security Law.

Last June, the midlevel Appellate Division reversed the judge, concluding the Son of Sam Law, named for convicted murderer David Berkowitz, permits victims to recover both profits from a crime and money the criminal receives from other sources, including pensions.

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The Court of Appeals reversed the midlevel court, concluding that while the state's lawyers argued that the Son of Sam Law trumped the civil practice law, they failed to bring the argument that it also trumped the retirement law.

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