Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is taking the Rensselaer County District Attorney to court to assert his authority over police killings of unarmed civilians — the first time since Gov. Andrew Cuomo established the attorney general’s jurisdiction over those cases.
Schneiderman filed suit Wednesday against Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove, arguing Abelove overstepped his authority when he convened a grand jury to look into the killing of 37-year-old Edson Thevenin by a Troy police officer prior to the attorney general making a determination over his jurisdiction in the case. The grand jury decided not to indict police Sgt. Randy French in the killing.
On April 17, French fatally shot Thevenin, a motorist that police say fled a traffic stop before pinning French against his own patrol car. Troy police ultimately determined that it was a justified shooting, but Schneiderman says that his efforts to investigate whether he should take authority over the case were stifled.
On April 19, the Attorney General’s Office requested information from Abelove about the case, according to a press release from the AG’s office Wednesday evening. But on Friday Abelove announced that the grand jury had already decided not to indict French, before Schneiderman had determined jurisdiction of the case, according to the release.
“Abelove’s actions not only violate the law but directly undermine the public’s confidence in law enforcement,” Schneiderman said in a statement released Wednesday evening.
A 2015 executive order from Cuomo gives the attorney general jurisdiction over all cases where an unarmed civilian dies during a police encounter. In the Troy case, Schneiderman asserts that his office was not given access to investigate whether or not it had authority to act as special prosecutor in the case.