Opening arguments in Joel Abelove trial set for Tuesday

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Opening arguments in Joel Abelove trial set for Tuesday


TROY – Lawyers will deliver opening statements Tuesday morning in the nonjury trial of former Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove.

The county’s former top prosecutor is charged with first-degree perjury, a felony, and charges of official misconduct, a misdemeanor, in connection with his handling of the 2016 fatal police shooting of Edson Thevenin.

Arguments are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. in a first-floor courtroom of the Rensselaer County Courthouse, where Abelove was once based as the county’s top prosecutor.

Columbia County Judge Jonathan Nichols will preside over the trial and, ultimately, deliver its verdict.

On Monday, as lawyers and the judge met for a conference inside the courtroom, protesters outside on the street played music and flashed signs – one asking passing cars to “honk for justice.”

A woman held one sign that said: “Edson Thevenin is Troy’s George Floyd.”

Her other hand held a sign that said: “Prosecute cover-up of murder.”

On April 17, 2016, Troy police Sgt. Randall French fatally shot Thevenin during a DWI traffic stop. A grand jury cleared French after Abelove quickly brought the case before the panel. There, Abelove did not present evidence of where the bullets hit Thevenin’s car and allowed French to testify without a waiver off immunity, which meant he could not be charged with the shooting. That set up a confrontation between Abelove and the attorney general’s office, which is tasked with investigating fatal police killings of unarmed civilians under a 2015 executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

It was the attorney general’s office that ultimately charged Abelove with official misconduct and perjury after he testified before a subsequent grand jury examining the case. In 2018, Nichols dismissed the charges against Abelove, but they were restored on appeal.

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