The renegade Rensselaer County, N.Y., district attorney, Joel Abelove, showed his contempt for the law and his unworthiness to hold office last year, when he brazenly obstructed a state investigation of a fatal shooting by a police officer in Troy. A grand jury indictment unsealed this month, charging him with perjury and official misconduct, makes a strong case for removing Mr. Abelove from office. Removal proceedings against elected officials in New York State are rare.
The controversy dates back to the spring of 2016, when a police officer in Troy, a city near Albany, shot and killed an unarmed motorist named Edson Thevenin during a traffic stop. The shooting was clearly covered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2015 executive order giving the state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, the authority to take control of cases in which police officers may have killed unarmed citizens without justification.
The order, issued after a grand jury chose not to indict the New York City police officer who had killed Eric Garner in 2014, was intended to dispel widespread public suspicion that prosecutors were turning a blind eye to unjustified killings of civilians by the police.
Mr. Cuomo’s order made clear that the attorney general could supersede county district attorneys in cases where “there is a significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous at the time of his or her death.” The order required district attorneys to refrain from actions that might jeopardize a potential prosecution and required them to seek state authorization before making grand jury presentations in such cases.
At the time, the attorney general’s office made clear that it was reviewing the matter. Mr. Abelove plunged ahead anyway. He took the case to a grand jury just five days after the shooting, and, according to The Albany Times Union, he did so without calling witnesses who had seen the encounter. He also took the outrageous step of granting immunity to the police officer who should have been the object of the investigation — a clear indication that he had no interest in a thorough investigation and intended to exonerate the officer from the outset.
The indictment also charges Mr. Abelove with lying to a separate grand jury investigating his handling of the case to cover up his earlier malfeasance.