Search warrant issued for Rensselaer County DA's cell phone

March 16, 2017 06:28 PM

The state attorney general requested a search warrant targeting Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove, as he continues to investigate the shooting death of Edson Thevenin.

Thevenin was shot by police April 17, 2016. Five days later, a grand jury found the use of force was justified. Then, on April 27, the attorney general sued Abelove, accusing him of initiating an unauthorized grand jury investigation. That brings us to Thursday’s search warrant.

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Not too long after District Attorney Joel Abelove arrived at work on Thursday, investigators from the attorney general's office seized his cell phone. This a big step in the investigation.

District Attorney Joel Abelove didn't have anything to say to NewsChannel 13 after his county cell phone was taken by investigators on a search warrant Thursday morning.

Abelove's assistant referred us to his attorney, John Bailey, who was out of town. 

"This is the first thing that has occurred that indicates to us that there is an investigation going on," noted Bailey, who spoke with NewsChannel 13 over the phone.

This all began in April 2016 as a traffic stop near the Collar City Bridge. Sergeant Randy French fired eight shots through Thevenin's windshield, killing him. Police said Thevenin had pinned the officer's leg against his police cruiser.

Abelove had the officer cleared by a grand jury within five days. 

A month later, Abelove turned over files on the case to the attorney general to satisfy the lawsuit that Schneiderman had filed against him. However, this cell phone seizure is the next step.

It's not clear what investigators are looking for since search warrant applications are confidential. However, they had to present some evidence to Rensselaer County Supreme Court Judge Richard McNally

Abelove's lawyer says he's worried about a conflict of interest after the district attorney’s race back in 2011.

"They went to the judge who Mr. Abelove ran against in 2011, why wouldn't have they have going to any other judge and there are plenty available," wondered Bailey.

Back in July 2015, Governor Cuomo signed an order allowing the attorney general to intervene in cases where police shot and killed unarmed citizens. 

Some prosecutors were concerned with that order when it came out, saying it was overreaching.

Cuomo again signed an order last month giving Schneiderman the authority to investigate Abelove's handling of the Thevenin case.

Abelove's attorney says when the facts come out, everyone will see the district attorney was just doing his job.  However, he doesn't think this investigation is just going to be dropped. He says it's politically motivated.


WNYT Staff

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