NEW YORK, Dec. 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Dec. 1, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a grand jury indictment charging Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove with two counts of official misconduct and one count of perjury in the first degree related to the investigation of a fatal police shooting.
In 2015, Governor Cuomo signed executive order 147 that empowers the Attorney General's office to take over cases when police officers kill unarmed citizens. On April 29th, Governor Cuomo signed executive order 147.4 that allowed Schneiderman to "specifically investigate and prosecute any unlawful acts or omissions by any law enforcement officer" in the case of Edson Thevenin. The indictment of the District Attorney for failing to conduct a proper investigation and failing to cooperate with the Attorney General's office is the first of its kind in New York state history.
According to a statement released by Attorney General Schneiderman: "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."
New York law firm Hach & Rose, LLP had previously filed a civil lawsuit (Docket: Thevenin vs. City of Troy, et. al – 1:16-cv-01115-DJS) on behalf of the widow of Edson Thevenin, the unarmed Watervliet man who was fatally shot by Sergeant French. Attorney Michael Rose filed the lawsuit on behalf of Thevenin's widow, Cinthia, and her two sons. The complaint alleges civil rights violations and assault and battery against the city of Troy and Sergeant French.
The incident occurred in the early morning of April 17th, when Officer French fired eight shots through the windshield of 37-year-old Edson Thevenin following a traffic stop for suspicion of DWI. Two civilian witnesses told police that they did not feel that the officer was in imminent danger when he opened fire on Thevenin's vehicle. The District Attorney's office interviewed both witnesses but failed to subpoena either of them to testify before the grand jury that eventually cleared officer French five days after the shooting.
Attorney Michael Rose had this to say about the indictment of District Attorney Abelove: "This is a giant step forward for Edson Thevenin's family in their pursuit of justice for his death. The indictment of District Attorney Abelove demonstrates that Governor Cuomo's executive order must be taken seriously. The Attorney General's office is empowered to investigate situations just like this due to the inherent conflict that arises when a District Attorney's office is investigating the police department within its own jurisdiction. We are confident that justice will be served in this matter and the responsible parties will be held fully accountable."
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SOURCE Hach & Rose, LLP