Grand jury authorized to look at D.A.’s handling of police-involved shooting

September 01, 2017 06:42 PM

The next time that Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove steps into a grand jury room, it looks like he will be the target.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating Abelove's handling of the Edson Thevenin case for more than a year.

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Thevenin was the Watervliet man shot and killed by a Troy police officer after a car pursuit in April 2016, after a car chase.

Now, it looks like Abelove, the man whose grand jury cleared the Troy officer of any wrongdoing, will have to sit in front of Schneiderman's grand jury and defend himself.

"There were no mistakes made," asserted John Bailey, Abelove’s attorney.

Bailey insists his client, Abelove, did nothing wrong investigating the Edson Thevenin case. He says the grand jury got it right when they cleared the Troy officer of any wrongdoing five days after the fatal shooting.

"Mr. Thevenin, in an attempt to escape, drove his car directly at Sgt. French and threatened his life," explained Bailey.

However, a point of contention arose. Because the case involved the fatal shooting of an unarmed civilian by police, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took control of the investigation.

"I think there's no question that the governor has the authority to intervene in any case and supersede a local D.A.," noted Paul DerOhannesian, an Albany attorney.

Abelove disagrees, which is why his attorney is challenging the governor's executive order.

"It obviously became a political event and it went somewhere up the political food chain," surmised Bailey.

Politics aside, Bailey says he welcomes grand jury witnesses and says he's confident his client has nothing to worry about.

"If all of those people are called and testify candidly and truthfully, a grand jury will conclude that there is no basis to indict Joel Abelove for anything," he assured.

"Definitely, you're concerned when the case goes from an investigation to a presentment to a grand jury," acknowledged DerOhannesian.

He thinks there might be too many uncertainties for there to be contentment.

"It's possible you can have a politically-motivated prosecution and also have evidence of a crime also," he pointed out.

Even though it may not be entirely clear what the attorney general wants focus on, Bailey says there's a "high degree of speculation" his client is the target of this grand jury probe and his client will gladly testify.

The grand jury is expected to begin hearing testimony in about three weeks.


WNYT Staff

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