Cuomo Issues Executive Order Allowing AG to Investigate Rensselaer County DA

Last year, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office sought authorization from Governor Andrew Cuomo's office to investigate the death of Edson Thevenin, claiming the investigation was incomplete when Abelove presented the case to a grand jury. The grand jury was presented the case of the Troy police officer who fired the shots less than a week after the April shooting; the grand jury cleared the officer soon after that.

The new executive order stems from an executive order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2015. That order appoints Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as special prosecutor in cases where a police officer kills an unarmed civilian, or there’s question of whether the person was armed. But the executive order issued on Wednesday by Governor Cuomo gives Schneiderman authority to investigate the Edson Thevenin case even further.

In April of 2016, Thevenin allegedly pinned a Troy police officer between his car and a police cruiser. The Troy police officer fired at Thevenin through the windshield, killing him. Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove presented the case to a grand jury in less than a week, and the officer was cleared. But Schneiderman says he had jurisdiction to investigate the case under an executive order.

The AG filed a lawsuit against Abelove, but they came to an agreement and Abelove handed over his files to Schneiderman. Abelove’s attorney says he would have handed them over initially if the attorney general’s office had asked.

“When the AGA says we're not asserting jurisdiction, then the DA has jurisdiction, and he has an obligation to look into any fatality of this kind,” said Bailey.

But the new executive order Governor Cuomo issued on Wednesday grants Schneiderman the authority to investigate every aspect of the case, including how DA Abelove handled it.

“This clearly can be read as giving the AG authority to see if anyone, including my client, did anything wrong,” said Bailey.

Attorney Paul DerOhannesian says this entire situation is unusual.

“I’ve never seen an order from a governor of New York authorizing the attorney general to investigate a district attorney,” said DerOhannesian, a legal analyst.

Questions remain for everyone involved.

“There are many aspects of this case that are unprecedented and will lead to legal precedent,” said DerOhannesian.

But Bailey is confident his client did everything right.

“He [Abelove] did not do anything wrong, and he is prepared to fight this to the very end. His reputation is at stake,” said Bailey.

There is no timetable in the executive order as to when this investigation will begin or end.

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