On September 14, 2020, the trial of former Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove begins. Abelove, who was the D.A. in April 2016 when Troy Police Department's Sergeant Randall French murdered Edson Thevenin, is on trial for two counts of official misconduct and one count of felony perjury in the first degree in connection to the case of Edson Thevenin.
This is not the first time that these charges have come up nor is the first time that Justice Jonathan D. Nichols of Columbia County presides over them: Judge Nichols threw out these charges on a technicality in 2017 and they were reinstated after OAG appealed in an appellate court and now they are being presented before Nichols once again.
The official misconduct charges stemmed from Abelove's alleged misconduct during his presentation to the Thevenin grand jury in April 2016. Abelove allegedly withheld material evidence and allowed Sergeant French to testify without waiving immunity from prosecution. The perjury charge was based on Abelove's alleged false testimony to the 2017 grand jury.1
During this bench trial, Justice Jonathan D. Nichols of Columbia County is hearing the case without a jury (Abelove's choice). The prosecution is only allowed to present evidence that was available before the grand jury trial, which took place five days after the incident. This rushed grand jury trial seemingly served to protect Sergeant French and the Troy PD and suppress evidence. D.A. Abelove quickly pushed the case before a grand jury who declined to indict Sergeant French and came to a conclusion that “French's ‘use of deadly physical force was justifiable under the law.'"2
On September 18, 2020, Antoine Karam, deputy chief investigator for the state attorney general’s office testified at the Abelove trial. Karam “recounted how he had obtained the sealed grand jury records from Abelove and reviewed its contents, finding no indication that the panel had been provided evidence from any firearms analysis, toxicology or autopsy reports, or a reconstruction of the shooting scene.”3