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

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Posted at 3:41 PM, Oct 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-04 19:24:23-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the first time, Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall is commenting publicly on a lawsuit filed by Alex Friedmann complaining about his treatment behind bars.

Friedmann is currently locked up in the supermax unit of Riverbend state prison awaiting trial.

He's charged in a bizarre plot to plant weapons in the Davidson County jail. Friedmann is now suing the state upset with his living conditions.

According to the sheriff, he's dangerous and exactly where he needs to be: locked up in maximum security.

"I don't know what to say. You should be housed in the most secure environment there is, period," said Hall.

Hall is not named in a lawsuit filed by Friedmann.

Friedmann is suing the state claiming he's been isolated for eighteen months in extremely restrictive, punitive and harsh conditions usually reserved only for death row inmates.

In his first public comment since learning about the lawsuit, Sheriff Hall says that's exactly where Friedmann belongs.

"His behavior is the most dangerous thing we have ever experienced," Hall said.

Friedmann is accused of hiding guns in the new jail while under construction and is charged with vandalism - a non-violent offense.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Friedmann said he's unfairly locked up in supermax as punishment for his past advocacy for prison reform.

"The term vandalism, it sounds like spray painting a building," said Hall, but he adds that Friedmann is accused of no minor offense. "What he did is worse than anything I've experienced in this line of work."

The sheriff believes Friedmann's alleged plot to hide weapons in the jail was to set the stage for a violent escape attempt by inmates before it was foiled.

Hall said to house Friedmann in anything less than supermax would be irresponsible.

"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.

The sheriff said there are many more disturbing details to Friedmann's alleged plot that will be made public when the case finally goes to trial.

No date has been set for that trial in state court. Friedmann also faces gun charges in federal court.

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

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