Does the State’s Son of Sam Law allow recovery from any and all of a convicted person’s assets, including his or her NYSERS retirement allowance?
New York State Off. of Victim Servs. v Raucci, 2012 NY Slip Op 04440 [97 AD3d 235], Appellate Division, Third Department, Motion before the Court of Appeals for Leave to Appeal Granted, Slip Opinion No: 2012 NY Slip Op 84607
The Court of Appeals will consider the appeal of Steven C. Raucci and his spouse, Shelley Raucci, a nonparty-appellant from an Appellate Division ruling that held that the Son of Sam Law, which does not expressly exempt pension funds from its reach, trumps §110 of the Retirement and Social Security Law. §110 exempts the pension funds from garnishment or any other legal process.
Steven C. Raucci was sentenced to a lengthy prison term upon his conviction of numerous crimes related to his employment with a school district. After receiving notice from two victims of these crimes of their intent to commence civil actions against Raucci for money damages, the New York State Office of Victim Services commenced this proceeding on their behalf pursuant to the Son of Sam Law (see Executive Law §632-a).
Victim Services contended that Raucci’s pension checks from the New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System are delivered to his wife, Shelley Raucci, who holds a power of attorney that enables her to cash such monthly pension checks, thereby giving her control over the funds and threatening their disbursement in a manner that would render ineffectual any civil judgments obtained by the crime victims.
The Appellate Division noting that in 1991 the Legislature, subject to certain limitations, "expand[ed] the [Son of Sam] [L]aw to cover money and property that a convicted criminal receives from any source," concluded that the statute, as amended, permits crime victims to commence an action “within three years of the discovery of any profits from a crime or funds of a convicted person."
In the words of the Appellate Division, “Apart from [certain] exceptions, however, the amendments to the Son of Sam Law were intended to ensure that convicted criminals are ‘held accountable to their victims financially, regardless of their source of wealth’" Thus, said the court, it its view both the unambiguous statutory language of the Son of Sam Law and the legislative history of the 2001 amendments support Victim Services’ argument that Raucci's pension funds are not exempt from the statute's reach.
The New York Law School Law Review has published an article by Jessica Yager, Esq. that addresses various aspects of the Sun of Sam Law titled Investigating New York’s 2001 Son Of Sam Law: Problems with the Recent Extension of Tort Liability for People Convicted Of Crimes, [Vol. 48, 2004, Pages 433-488] Ms. Yager’s Law Review article is posted on the Internet at: http://www.nyls.edu/user_files/1/3/4/17/49/Vol48no3p433-488.pdf