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Rensselaer County district attorney indicted

Rensselaer County district attorney indicted

Action stems from his handling of police shooting case

TROY -- Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove was indicted Friday on three counts, including perjury, connected to his handling of a police shooting death case last year, the state Attorney General's Office announced.

Abelove faces two counts of official misconduct and one count of first-degree perjury. He pleaded not guilty.

The charges stem from the April 2016 police shooting death of Edson Thevenin in Troy. They center on the 2015 executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that gave the attorney general jurisdiction over certain cases involving the deaths of unarmed individuals at the hands of police.

The attorney general sought more information following Thevenin's death to determine whether it fell under the executive order. Abelove, however, quickly put the case before a grand jury, which resulted in the officer, Troy Sgt. Randall French, being cleared.

"In violation of both his legal and ethical obligations, Abelove allegedly withheld material evidence from the grand jury, effectively co-opting its ability to make an informed decision about the matter – with the inevitable and intended result that no charges were brought against French," an attorney general's press release reads. "Furthermore, Abelove allegedly took the extraordinary step of conferring immunity upon French before the grand jury even took a vote, seeking to protect French from any potential future prosecution in the Thevenin shooting."

The AG then received the power from Cuomo to investigate any "unlawful acts or omissions" by the district attorney or other law enforcement officer involved.

In the ensuing grand jury investigation, Abelove falsely claimed that immunity was granted by his office in a previous police shooting case, according to the attorney general.

The misconduct counts relate to allegations he withheld evidence from the grand jury investigating the shooting and knowingly failing to secure a waiver of immunity from French as a condition of his testifying.

"As we allege, District Attorney Abelove’s actions violated the law and undermined a criminal investigation," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in press release. "The Governor’s Executive Order was designed to restore public confidence in our criminal justice system – yet the actions we detail today only served to further erode that confidence."

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