NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Alex Friedmann was arrested — accused of planting guns in the new Davidson County jail. He then sued to keep from being kept in solitary confinement and won.
Now as the trial nears, he is accusing the sheriff of trying to poison the jury pool against him.
Sheriff Daron Hall has made it clear that what Friedmann is accused of pulling at the detention center qualifies him as very dangerous and a serious escape risk.
"His behavior is the most dangerous thing we have ever experienced," said Sheriff Hall.
The sheriff makes no secret of his contempt for the allegations against Friedmann.
"What he did is worse than anything I've experienced in this line of work," he said.
Friedmann is accused of sneaking in and hiding weapons and ammo during the construction of the new jail.
He was caught but the plot delayed the opening for months and cost thousands of dollars as the entire facility had to be searched for the guns.
Now since his arrest, Friedmann had been held at Riverbend Maximum Security prison while awaiting trial.
But, late last year he sued the state arguing that it was wrong to hold him in isolated conditions usually reserved for only death row inmates.
"I don't know what to say. You should be housed in the most secure environment there is... period," said the sheriff.
But a federal judge agreed with Friedmann and over the holidays ordered him moved out of maximum security confinement.
Now Friedmann is questioning the sheriff.
In a note sent to NewsChannel 5 through his attorney, he writes:
"While the sheriff is entitled to his opinion, it conflicts with the findings of a federal district judge. The sheriff continues to try to poison the jury pool in advance of my criminal trial, which is an improper exercise of his authority."
Friedmann — a former prison advocate — is not shy about voicing his opinion. His attorney points out he is charged only with vandalism, but he is being held on a $2.5 million bond.
Friedmann is scheduled to stand trial in July.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
A spokesperson for Bell and Associates Construction, the construction company behind the new jail, called the breach 'domestic terrorism' and unprecedented.
By April 2020, Sheriff Hall said the new detention center was deemed "safe and secure." The case delayed the opening of the new facility.
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.
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.
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.
In July 2022, Friedmann saw his day in court. The trial lasted four days and ultimately, Friedmann was found guilty of vandalism of more than $250,000 — a Class A felony.
Ahead of the sentencing, Friedmann submitted a letter to the court in September asking for leniency. He claimed a jail gang rape years earlier led him to plant guns in the jail in order to protect himself if he were ever incarcerated again.