Former Bernie Sanders prison reform consultant convicted of vandalism after planting weapons, tools inside walls of Nashville prison

If Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were a conservative Republican instead of a far-left progressive, he’d probably have some serious explaining to do about a major criminal act committed by a former campaign consultant who previously worked with the senator.

Alex Friedmann, a prominent prison reform activist who worked with Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, was convicted of vandalism this week after he was caught planting weapons and tools in the walls of a new prison in Nashville, Tennessee, that was under construction in 2020, the Daily Wire reported.

The activist had stolen keys to the new facility and, disguised as a construction worker, entered the building on several occasions to hide loaded firearms, hacksaw blades, handcuff keys, and other items inside the walls of the detention center, presumably to aid an eventual attempted prison break, according to the local sheriff.

However, Friedmann’s actual motive remains unclear — he didn’t testify during the trial — which prompted Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter to state during closing arguments, “We don’t know: Who were those bullets intended for? Who was going to be stuck with that knife? Who was going to try to get something from the other side of the visitation booth, and what were they going to do with it? And why?”

Multiple incidents over several months were caught on camera

ABC News reported that Friedmann was convicted by a jury of vandalism over $250,000, a charge that stemmed from the fact that it cost around $291,000 to rekey the entire facility not to mention an estimated $300,000 in personnel costs related to the thousands of hours spent by sheriff’s office employees to review surveillance camera footage that had captured nearly all of Friedmann’s criminal acts.

It was revealed by prosecutors that Friedmann’s actions had taken place over the span of several months and it was only in December 2019 that officials suspected something was wrong when a pair of keys to the new Downtown Detention Center were discovered to be missing.

Finally, on January 4, 2020, Friedmann was stopped in a secure area and forced to wait while police were called and, during that wait, the activist allegedly began to rip apart and try to eat blueprint schematics of the facility that he possessed.

Sheriff says activist had an “evil plan”

The Nashville Scene reported in February 2020 that Friedmann had initially been charged with attempted burglary, possession of burglary tools, and evidence tampering after he was arrested by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. He’d been caught with a cooler that contained bolt cutters, a tool for identifying keys, and the schematics to the prison that he attempted to eat.

Further investigation led to his being arrested again in February and the vandalism charge once the extent of the damage and repairs had been determined and he was ordered held on a $2.5 million bond.

“It was discovered that Mr. Friedmann over many months had developed and implemented an extremely deliberate and, in my opinion, evil plan. Understand, this plan went far beyond vandalism,” Sheriff Daron Hall said at that time. “Ultimately, it included planting various tools, weapons and security equipment throughout this facility — all designed to assist in a massive escape plan.”

Knew he was up to no good

The Associated Press reported that Friedmann was well known to Sheriff Hall because they had worked together previously on prison reform issues, which led Hall to realize how significant the security breach was once it was established that Friedmann was the intruder who’d been repeatedly caught on camera planting weapons and tools inside the prison.

“We knew if Alex Friedmann had been up to any good, he would have come to us and we would have provided him with information,” Hall said during his testimony at the trial. “We knew we were not talking about some casual occurrence here.”

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