An upstate district attorney withheld evidence in a grand jury probe into a fatal police shooting and then lied about how his office handled other police shooting cases, state prosecutors said Friday.
Prosecutors in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office charged Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove with official misconduct and perjury, stemming from investigations into a man’s 2016 death.
Since July 2015, Schneiderman’s office has been the special prosecutor tasked to investigate police-involved civilian deaths — a step taken after Staten Island prosecutors did not secure an indictment against Officer Daniel Pantaleo for Eric Garner’s death.
In April 2016, Troy Sergeant Randall French shot into Edson Thevenin’s windshield after the man’s vehicle pinned the cop’s legs.
According to Schneiderman, Abelove secretly rushed the case in front of a grand jury, even though state prosecutors were looking into the matter.
Abelove withheld evidence from grand jurors and gave immunity to French. The grand jury refused to indict the officer, which Schneiderman said was Abelove’s intention.
Schneiderman’s office empaneled a grand jury to examine how Abelove handled the matter.
Abelove was asked if another officer received immunity for an unrelated shooting the way French did. According to the indictment, Abelove testified the other cop did have immunity, even though he knew the other man had waived immunity.
Schneiderman said Gov. Cuomo’s 2015 order tapping him as special prosecutor for police-involved fatalities “was designed to restore public confidence in our criminal justice system — yet the actions we detail today only served to further erode that confidence.”
He said his office would continue to work with law enforcement statewide “to ensure fair, comprehensive, and independent investigations of every case within our jurisdiction, so that families like the Thevenins get the answers they deserve.”
Abelove, elected in 2014, pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.
After his arraignment Friday, Abelove said he planned to stay on as the district attorney and said he’d beat the case, according to the Times Union.