TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – An appeals court ruled Thursday that criminal charges against former Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove should be reinstated. The original charges stem from his handling of the officer-involved shooting death of Edson Thevenin. Abelove was charged with two counts of official misconduct and one charge of perjury.
The appeals court concluded, “Accordingly, Supreme Court should not have dismissed the perjury count against defendant (Abelove), as OAG (Office of Attorney General) was authorized to prosecute that crime. Inasmuch as Supreme Court dismissed the official misconduct counts based solely on its conclusion that OAG lacked authority to prosecute the perjury count, the entire indictment should be reinstated.”
The charges were originally dropped by the state Supreme Court citing the Attorney General (AG) did not have the authority to prosecute due to the fact that Thevenin allegedly used his vehicle as a deadly weapon. Under an executive order by Governor Cuomo, the AG was given authority to overview cases only where an unarmed civilian was killed by police. After questions were raised in the Thevenin investigation the Governor signed another executive order authorizing the AG “to investigate, and if warranted, prosecute any and all unlawful acts or omissions or alleged unlawful acts or omissions by any person arising out of, relating to, or in any way connected with the [the death of Thevenin] and [the] subsequent investigation, including [the] grand jury presentation.”
On April 22, five days after Thevenin was shot and killed, a grand jury convened and decided Troy Police Officer Randy French was justified in shooting Thevenin. Abelove is accused of withholding material evidence at that grand jury proceeding and allowed French to testify to the grand jury without waiving immunity. In February 2017 the AG convened a grand jury to investigate, among other things, the alleged misconduct surrounding the original Thevenin grand jury presentation.
The new court ruling states, “Supreme Court erred in concluding that OAG lacked the authority to prosecute the perjury count and, therefore, erred in granting defendant’s (Abelove) motion to dismiss the indictment.”
Attorney General Letitia James responded with a statement on Thursday, “Today’s decision is a big win in our efforts to ensure that justice is served and that no person, including elected officials, is above the law. The grand jury found that former District Attorney Abelove abused his power and lied under oath in an attempt to sway a grand jury and impede our investigation – actions that are patently unlawful and unethical. We look forward to continuing this case and ensuring that justice is truly served.”