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2016 officer-involved shooting playing a role in Rensselaer County D.A. race

November 02, 2018 06:52 PM

With just four days to go until people head to the polls, a Troy mother is speaking out against a candidate in the Rensselaer County district attorney's race.

Gertha Depas is the mother of Edson Thevenin. Thevenin was fatally shot by Sergeant Randall French during a traffic stop in Troy in April 2016.

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Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove, who is running for re-election, was accused of mishandling the investigation into Thevenin's death.

The attorney general's office charged Abelove with two counts of official misconduct and one count of perjury. However, back in June, the charges were dismissed. Depas says that was another heartbreak.

"We the mothers, you know, have to suffer. The mothers, the children, they have to suffer because of this kind of corruption under Joel Abelove. Vote 'no', vote against Joel Abelove," Depas said.

Depas made a point to say she's not urging people to vote for Democratic challenger, Mary Pat Donnelly -- but for people not to vote for Abelove.

Abelove, a prosecutor for more than 20 years, says he stands by his office's handling of the case. He says people can look at the attorney general's 20 month, 130 detailed page report that he says outlines all the facts of the case. He says the sergeant in the case did nothing wrong and shouldn't have been charged.

Donnelly, a former East Greenbush town judge who works as an attorney advising judges in Albany City Court, says after seeing what happened, it was a contributing factor on why she decided to run.

"I love helping victims, I love helping people and I love this office. I started out here actually as an intern in law school," explained Abelove.

"I saw almost immediately when the current D.A. took office, a change in the way cases were being handled -- dismissal after dismissal," said Donnelly.

However, Abelove says his office seeks justice when it can.

"There are a multitude of reasons why some cases get dismissed. We have defendants who can't be prosecuted because there's a lack of proof and I can't invent proof if it doesn't exist," said Abelove.

Another reason Donnelly decided to run — Abelove's handling of the Thevenin case.

"At the heart of that entire indictment [against Abelove in the Thevenin case] is the accusation that our DA lied to cover up his actions and that is extremely troubling to me," said Donnelly.

However, Abelove claims the charges were politically motivated.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I believe I was unfairly targeted and that those charges have rightly been dismissed by a court," said Abelove.

He says Donnelly doesn't have enough experience for the job.

"This is too serious a job and too important a job to entrust to somebody who has no experience in prosecuting cases in this state. Not so much as a traffic ticket has she ever prosecuted," said Abelove.

Donnelly says Abelove isn't doing enough for the people of Rensselaer County.

"There is a pattern of justice for his political allies and a pattern of justice for his political enemies," she said.

Donnelly also says something troubling to her was how many assistant district attorneys have come and gone from the office.

Abelove says that's unfortunately normal for district attorneys' offices due to the lack of pay. He says he's been working to increase their salaries.

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WNYT Staff

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