Today, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the indictment of Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove with official misconduct and perjury in the police shooting case of Edson Thevenin. This marks the first time that a New York state district attorney has been charged with failing to investigate a crime and refusing to cooperate with the Attorney General’s office.
An order signed in July of 2015 by Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed the Attorney General as a special prosecutor in cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police officers. The indictment charges that District Attorney Abelove intentionally and covertly rushed the case before the grand jury to avoid involvement from the AG’s office in order to ensure that the officer involved, Sergeant Randall French, would be cleared of wrongdoing.
Attorney Mike Rose of Hach & Rose, LLP is already representing the victim’s family in a civil case against the city of Troy and the officer responsible for the unarmed man’s death. The lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of Cinthia Thevenin and her two sons following the fatal shooting of 37-year-old husband and father, Edson Thevenin in an April 17th encounter with Troy police officer Randall French. The lawsuit alleges that the city of Troy and the officer, Sergeant Randall French violated Thevenin’s civil rights in the incident which left Thevenin dead.
Thevenin was stopped at in the early morning on April 17th by Sergeant French on suspicion of drunk driving. After a short pursuit, the officer’s legs became pinned against his vehicle, which according to the officer, led him to feel in danger, and caused him to open fire on Thevenin’s vehicle. The officer subsequently fired eight shots into the windshield of Thevenin’s car, killing him.
A grand jury cleared the officer of wrongdoing five days after the shooting, but two witnesses at the scene told law enforcement and the district attorney that it did not appear that the officer was in immediate danger when he shot and killed Thevenin. The DA failed to subpoena the two witnesses during the grand jury trial of officer French.
Attorney General Schneiderman issued this statement regarding District Attorney Abelove’s actions: “As we allege, District Attorney Abelove’s actions violated the law and undermined a criminal investigation. 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. My office will continue to work collaboratively with law enforcement agencies across the state, including district attorneys, to ensure fair, comprehensive, and independent investigations of every case within our jurisdiction, so that families like the Thevenins get the answers they deserve.”