Jury finds Alex Friedmann guilty of vandalism in planting weapons in Davidson Co. jail

Alex Friedmann Trial Thursday
Posted at 8:21 AM, Jul 21, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A jury found Alex Friedmann guilty of vandalism at $250,000, which is a Class A felony.

Friedmann faced a felony vandalism charge following accusations that he broke into the Davidson County jail while it was under construction and planted weapons in the building.

"I still don't believe what happened," Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said after the verdict. "It was the most significant event in my lifetime. The impact was prevented. I can't thank the DA's office enough. We had to try to convince people to believe us. Today isn't a celebration but I feel awkward. Our justice realized the significance of this event. He committed an evil act. I am leaving here tonight with a little more faith in our system."

Sentencing will be held Sept. 7 at 1 p.m.

Halls statements echoed that of the prosecution during closing arguments.

"He broke the entire integrity of the jail," Davidson County Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter said in closing arguments. "When you don't have security in a jail, you don't have a jail. He did it knowingly. He knew he didn't have the owner's consent. He put guns there, knives there. He contaminated the entire property."

Friedmann's defense attorney Ben Raybin said the prosecution wanted to cover the jury in facts so the jury would be "just as upset at him as the sheriff's office is."

"They have given you fact after fact that are not in dispute that I told you from the beginning we don't dispute," Raybin said. "They are bad facts for our client. We aren't running from that. You're not asked to decide if he did something bad. You all are being asked to apply a law for the facts of the case for damages for vandalism."

Judge Steve Dozier called for a recess until 10:30 a.m. to allow the defense more time to review documents submitted by the prosecution late Wednesday night.

The defense admitted Friedmann committed the crime, and is instead arguing the amount of damage he caused. Friedmann is accused of causing more than $250,000 of damage — a felony.

Video evidence was shown for the first time this week of Friedmann walking around the building dressed as a construction worker. He was seen hiding weapons, ammunition, tools and more throughout the building as it was under construction in 2019.

On Thursday, a surveillance video detailing the moments leading up to Friedmann's arrest were shown. Friedmann was brought into an interlocked room by Security Lieutenant Cory Witkus of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office.

In the video, Friedmann is seen pacing about the area and clicking buttons indicative of an attempt for the door to be opened. While he was in this room, deputies and officers were being alerted to him being there.

Minutes prior to his arrest, Friedmann walks to one of the trash bins in the corner, pulls something from his pocket and eats it. He is also seen holding a piece of paper before eating as well.

That video as well as the moment officers arrive can be seen below.

Surveillance video show Alex Friedmann eating item, arrest

Following a view of the surveillance, the court continued to look at evidence including what was on him at the time of his arrest.

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.

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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

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.

Jury finds Alex Friedmann guilty of vandalism in planting weapons in Davidson Co. jail

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.

Alex Friedmann claims 'jail gang rape' led to him planting guns in the Davidson County Jail