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Appeals court rules case against former Rensselaer Co. D.A. should be reinstated

WNYT Staff
Updated: November 21, 2019 07:46 PM
Created: November 21, 2019 11:32 AM

ALBANY - From the day he was indicted, on December 1, 2017, that's the day Joel Abelove began fighting.

"I intend to vigorously defend against what I consider to be frivolous and over-reaching allegations by the attorney general," Abelove said at the time of that indictment.

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The allegations were that Abelove mishandled the investigation of Edson Thevenin's death, a motorist gunned down by a Troy police sergeant in April 2016.

"The Thevenin case can not be pursued no matter what this case says because of the immunity that was given to him in the grand jury," Paul DerOhannesian, an Albany attorney unaffiliated with the case, pointed out. "That's exactly why there was this investigation, that was the basis for the governor to issue an order that directed the attorney general to investigate."

So the attorney general went after the prosecutor. The state probe resulted in official misconduct and perjury charges that were thrown out by a state Supreme Court judge in June 2018.

However, the attorney general appealed and on Thursday a panel of appellate judges ruled unanimously to reinstate the entire indictment against Abelove.

"I think this decision does indicate that local district attorneys are going to be weakened in their investigations," DerOhannesian opined.

What about other cases handled by Abelove's office? Might they have to be revisited?

"I don't believe this case has any impact on other cases or that it opens the doors for other attorneys to challenge other cases and convictions," DerOhannesian stated.

DerOhannesian believes the biggest takeaway from this decision is that the attorney general has broader investigative powers, a distinction the Albany attorney says comes at a very important time.

"(DAs) are playing a greater role in more and more investigations in cases involving the death of civilians," DerOhannesian pointed out.

Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a statement on Thursday that reads:

"Today's decision is a big win in our efforts to ensure that justice is served and that no person, including elected officials, is above the law. The grand jury found that former District Attorney Abelove abused his power and lied under oath in an attempt to sway a grand jury and impede our investigation - actions that are patently unlawful and unethical. We look forward to continuing this case and ensuring that justice is truly served."

You can read the full decision here.


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