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TROY, N.Y. (AP) — An upstate New York district attorney was arraigned Friday on perjury and official misconduct charges stemming from his handling of an investigation that cleared a police officer who killed a man during a traffic stop.
Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove's attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf in Columbia County Court. After the court appearance, Abelove said he will remain in his post and expects to be vindicated at trial.
It's the first time a district attorney has faced criminal charges following Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2015 executive order directing the state attorney general to intervene in cases of unarmed civilians killed by police.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, had clashed with Abelove, a Republican, over whose office had jurisdiction to investigate the April 2016 fatal shooting of 37-year-old Edson Thevenin during a traffic stop.
Schneiderman accused Abelove of making an "end run" around Cuomo's executive order by secretly rushing the case before a grand jury that cleared Sgt. Randall French of wrongdoing before the attorney general's office could review the shooting.
Abelove fought Schneiderman's investigation, filing a petition in March 2017 saying Cuomo's order was unconstitutional. A judge rejected Abelove's argument.
The official misconduct charges accuse Abelove of withholding evidence from the grand jury investigating Thevenin's death and failing to secure a waiver of immunity from French as a condition of him testifying before the grand jury.
"As we allege, District Attorney Abelove's actions violated the law and undermined a criminal investigation," Schneiderman said in a statement Friday.
Thevenin's widow has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the shooting was unjustified.
Thevenin was shot multiple times through his windshield on Troy's Collar City Bridge. While he wasn't armed with a gun, police alleged that he was armed with his car and had driven forward and pinned the officer's legs against his police cruiser before he opened fire.
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