Alex Friedmann, accused of hiding weapons in Davidson County jail, set to stand trial next week

advocate arrested.png
Posted at 1:18 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 22:38:49-04

Finally — secrets will be revealed. Jury selection begins Monday in a case unlike any seen before here in Nashville.

Alex Friedmann is accused of hiding weapons inside the new Davidson County Jail.

The sheriff calls him extremely dangerous but, Friedmann is standing trial on only one charge — vandalism.

The main questions: What was Friedmann's plan? Why did he allegedly plant those weapons during the construction of the new jail?

That's the mystery maybe to be answered at trial... or maybe not.

There's no conspiracy charge — only vandalism.

"His behavior is the most dangerous thing we have ever experienced," said Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall after Friedmann's arrest more than two years ago. "What he did is worse than anything I've experienced in this line of work."

Friedmann is accused of disguising himself as a crew worker, sneaking in during construction of the new jail in 2019 and hiding weapons.

Security photos were made public after his arrest showing a man who appears to be Friedman dressed like a construction worker.

But, beyond that, what is the evidence against him?

"Do they have video of him putting firearms into walls? Do they have video of him engaging in vandalism?" asked NewsChannel 5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo.

Again, the charge is vandalism.

No evidence of a conspiracy or what the plan was for the weapons. But the sheriff will testify to a $250,000 of damage caused by the vandalism — a Class A felony.

"He is your star witness who will testify to damages and what the costs were," said Leonardo.

The sheriff will testify that the crime delayed the jail's opening, requiring searches to locate hidden contraband and money spent to change hundreds of locks.

Friedmann's attorneys will challenge the costs and whether their client — a prison reform advocate — was even responsible.

"Maybe they say sure he was there, he's interested in the way prisons are built, but he didn't do it," said Leonardo.

Authorities did locate two accomplices who they believe assisted Friedmann. Neither is charged at this time and both are expected to testify against him.

Maybe they'll reveal the motive behind the crime.

It is not expected that Friedmann will testify on his own behalf.

He has a prior criminal history.

If convicted of the Class A felony he faces between 25 and 40 years in prison.

The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection Monday morning.

In-Depth: Alex Friedmann Case

For more than a decade, Alex Friedmann worked to become a leader in advocating for criminal justice issues in Tennessee. He took up the cause after he was sentenced to ten years in prison on an assault charge. Since his 1999 release, he's written legal journals and pushed prison reform policy, including testifying on Capitol Hill and at the Tennessee State Capitol and even speaking with NewsChannel 5 about prison safety concerns.

Who is Alex Friedmann? A look at the advocate accused of planting guns inside the Metro Jail

In January 2020, Friedmann was charged with attempted burglary, evidence tampering and possession of burglary tools. The Davidson County Sheriff's Office said he broke into the new downtown detention center while it was being constructed. The sheriff's office said in December 2019, employees noticed a set of keys with a ring that looked different from the others, then later confirmed two facility keys were missing.

Criminal justice advocate arrested in Nashville

Friedmann allegedly dressed as a construction worker and was seen entering the control room. Police said he then entered the room and placed a key ring in his pocket, left the DDC through the front lobby, returned two hours later, and replaced the keys, again with two missing. When officers arrested Friedman, they found an igloo cooler he was carrying into the facility contained bolt cutters and a document identified as schematics of the detention center.

Sources told NewsChannel 5 the break-in was part of a plot to compromise the security of the new jail.

Sources: Break-in part of plot to discredit new Davidson County Jail

In early February 2020, it was announced all 1,800 locks at the new detention center will have to be replaced Friedmann allegedly broke in. Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall called it the "most significant security breach in Nashville history."

1,800 locks being replaced after break-in at Davidson County Jail

Weeks later, the Davidson County Sheriff's Office announced it had uncovered a "massive escape plan" allegedly created by Friedmann. He was accused of hiding loaded guns, various tools and additional ammunition in the new downtown detention center over a period of months.

Sheriff Daron Hall called the alleged plan extremely deliberate and evil, adding he believed Friedmann put the lives of law enforcement in "imminent danger." Friedmann was arrested on a felony vandalism charge.

Sheriff: Criminal justice advocate planted guns, ammunition in detention center

A spokesperson for Bell and Associates Construction, the construction company behind the new jail, called the breach 'domestic terrorism' and unprecedented.

Alleged jail break plot will change how jails are built moving forward

By April 2020, Sheriff Hall said the new detention center was deemed "safe and secure." The case delayed the opening of the new facility.

Davidson County sheriff says detention center 'safe and secure' after break-in

In September 2021, NewsChannel 5 learned Friedmann filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Correction in federal court, claiming to be unfairly locked up with dangerous convicted felons. He is being housed at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison while awaiting trial.

Man accused of planting guns in new Davidson County jail sues state

Sheriff Hall responded to the lawsuit publicly in an interview with NewsChannel 5, calling Friedmann dangerous.

"The evidence of what he's done, the proof of what he's done. As far as I'm concerned he needs to be in the most secure environment there is not just today, but forever," said Hall.

Sheriff says man accused of planting guns in Davidson Co. jail should be housed in maximum security

In December 2021, a judge sided with Friedmann, ordering he no longer be kept in solitary confinement while awaiting trial. The Tennessee Department of Corrections didn't immediately comply so as a result, Friedmann's lawyer argued TDOC should be held in contempt.

After another day in court, TDOC finally agreed to allow Friedmann more time outside his cell and more interaction with others.

Alex Friedmann to no longer stay in solitary confinement while awaiting trial