NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Three prosecution witnesses in the trial of Alex Friedmann may not be allowed to testify.
Attorneys for Friedmann just filed this last-second motion challenging the witnesses, with the trial starting Monday.
They argue that a sudden late addition of an internal investigative report to the case file constitutes an “unnecessary surprise” and “trial by ambush.”
Friedmann is charged with felony vandalism and is accused of planting weapons inside the new Davidson County jail while it was being built three years ago.
Friedmann is charged with felony vandalism of more than $250,000.
The defense says a 42-page report and subpoenas for 29 additional, new witnesses was only just now made available to them at this late hour.
Friedmann’s attorneys say this gives them no time to prepare to rebut findings in the report or the witnesses at trial.
The motion states the sheriff’s investigator Warren Ford began working on the case at the very beginning of December 2019.
His resulting report encompasses the entirety of the case against Friedmann.
Ford figures to be a key witness for the prosecution.
The defense asked that he and two other sheriff’s office employees named in the report not be allowed to testify at the trial.
Judge Steve Dozier will hear the issue and likely decide before jury selection begins 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.
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.