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Crime Files: The Ex-Bernie Sanders Consultant Who Planted Weapons At A Jail Under Construction, Plotting A Massive Breakout


On December 30, 2019, lieutenants with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) working in the newly built downtown detention center in Nashville, Tennessee, noticed a set of keys with a ring that looked different from other sets.

An audit was conducted, finding that two facility keys were missing, News Channel 5 reported in January 2020. Police focused their attention on Alex Friedmann, a criminal justice reform advocate who had been previously caught entering the building, known as the Davidson County Jail, under false pretenses at least three times.

Friedmann was arrested on January 4, 2020, and charged with attempted burglary, evidence tampering, and possession of burglary tools. 

Police alleged that Friedmann dressed as a construction worker in a yellow vest and dust mask and entered the detention center numerous times while it was being built. On one occasion, he was seen spray painting around the door to the key control room. Then, he entered the room and stole a key ring, leaving through the front lobby. Two hours later, he returned and replaced the keyring – with two missing.

During Friedmann’s arrest, police officers discovered an igloo cooler that he had carried into the facility, which contained bolt cutters and a document later identified as the schematics of the detention center. A video also showed Friedmann attempting to destroy the document by ripping and chewing it.

“The seriousness of Mr. Friedmann’s charges cannot be ignored. His actions have placed the safety and security of our entire community in peril, not to mention DCSO staff and inmates,” Sheriff Daron Hall said at the time of Friedmann’s arrest.

In early February 2020, the DCSO announced that all 1,800 locks would have to be replaced following Friedmann’s actions. At the time, Hall called the case the “most significant security breach in Nashville history.”

Weeks after that announcement, police announced it had discovered a major escape plan put in the works by Friedmann, who was arrested again on February 18 and accused of hiding loaded guns, ammunition, and tools inside the jail over a months-long period while it was being built.

“Throughout the last several weeks it was discovered that Mr. Friedmann, over many months, had developed and implemented an extremely deliberate – and in my opinion evil – plan,” Hall said during a press conference in February 2020. “Understand, this plan went far beyond vandalism. Ultimately it included planting various tools, weapons, security equipment throughout this facility. All designed to assist in a massive escape plan.”

Hall went on to explain how Friedmann had planted loaded guns and ammunition in the detention center while it was being built.

“What disturbed me most is not that this was about an escape,” Hall said. “It was also about loss of life.”

In July 2022, Friedmann was found guilty of causing more than $250,000 worth of damage to the jail. Months later, in September, Friedmann submitted a letter to the court asking for leniency and blaming a jail gang rape as the reason he planted the gun – in case he was ever arrested again.

In October 2022, Friedmann was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his crimes.

Friedmann became a criminal justice advocate after he spent a decade in prison for an assault charge during an armed robbery in Nashville back in 1987. While in prison, he began writing for the Human Rights Defense Center’s monthly publication, Prison Legal News. Once he was out of prison, he became a staff member for the advocacy group but resigned after his January 2020 arrest.

In 2016, Friedman worked on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential campaign as one of several consultants for criminal justice issues, Fox News reported.

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