Why the Abelove trial matters

The trial of former Resnnselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove is a major flashpoint in larger efforts to hold police accountable in the killing of civilians and while its drawn the attention of local activists it isn’t quite drawing the wider audience it deserves. 

Abelove was charged with perjury and and official misconduct for his handling of a grand jury investigation into the shooting of Edson Thevenin during a traffic stop in 2016.

Abelove brought the case before a grand jury just five days after the shooting and before the Troy PD had finished its investigation. Abelove also granted Randall French, the officer responsible for the shooting, immunity before he testified before the body–essentially making the grand jury’s decision irrelevant. 

“Where instead of using the grand jury process to seek truth and promote justice, Joel Abelove exploited the grand jury process to hide the truth and pervert justice,” said Jennifer Sommers, Deputy Chief of the Attorney General’s Special Investigations and Prosecution Unit. 

Yesterday former Assistant District Attorney Shane Hug detailed how Abelove moved to protect officers in earlier police-involved killings. 

Prosecutors finished presenting witnesses yesterday and Abelove’s defense team is bringing their case. Former Troy Police Chief John Tedesco was testifying as of this writing. 

The case against Abelove was brought by then Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman was granted the power to look into the killings of civilians by police by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015

Abelove faced controversy in 2018 when Republican groups raffled off an AR15 assault rifle to raise funds in his honor. His office was also roundly criticized for failing to bring numerous felony cases to trial. 

Legal observers are interested to see whether a judge will hold a DA accountable for failing to prosecute a police officer for the shooting of a civilian. It could set a precedent that will be felt across the country. 

If you want to learn more about the case you can follow along with Robert Gavin of the Times Union and check out Troy 4 Black Lives for more information on their activism around the killing of Edson Thevenin. 

Robert Cooper has shots from the trial and the protests: 

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