A New York district attorney was indicted by a state grand jury Friday afternoon on charges of official misconduct and perjury in relation to the investigation of an officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of an unarmed black man after a traffic stop.
In Justice Today reports that Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel E. Abelove is accused of concealing evidence in the shooting of 37-year-old Edson Thevenin and then lying during the subsequent investigation. He is also accused of repeatedly interfering with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s efforts to investigate the shooting. Thevenin was shot eight times and killed by Troy, N.Y., Police Sgt. Randall French after a traffic stop for suspected drunken driving went awry in April 2016.
In New York, a 2015 executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires the attorney general to investigate and criminally prosecute any case in which a police officer kills an unarmed civilian. Rather than provide Schneiderman with requested information related to the shooting, Abelove chose to present a truncated version of the case to a grand jury, and French was cleared of any wrongdoing less than a week after the shooting.
Abelove’s actions exemplify the type of behavior that Cuomo’s executive order is meant to prevent.
“As we allege, District Attorney Abelove’s actions violated the law and undermined a criminal investigation,” Schneiderman said. “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.”
French pulled Thevenin over April 17, 2016, on suspicion of drunken driving. There was a short chase, after which French claimed that Thevenin attempted to run him over. He shot Thevenin through his windshield eight times. Witnesses who testified in front of Schneiderman’s grand jury said that French’s life was not in danger at the time he shot Thevenin.
Abelove is charged with two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct and one count of perjury, which is a class D felony. If found guilty, he faces a possible sentence of seven years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Now that he has been indicted, it is unclear whether Abelove—who is up for re-election next year—will remain district attorney. New York law gives the governor the power to remove a district attorney from office.
Read more at In Justice Today.