A former consultant to Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign was arrested after he allegedly planted loaded weapons and ammunition inside a soon-to-be-opened Tennessee prison, according to authorities.
On Wednesday, Nashville police said that prison reform advocate Alex Friedmann - who helped shape Sanders' criminal justice agenda - spent months plotting to help prisoners escape after the facility was opened. He was arrested on Tuesday on one count of felony vandalism - however the allegations go far beyond that according to Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall.
"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," said Hall, adding "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."
The stashed weapons included loaded guns and ammunition, according to Hall, who added "What disturbed me most is not that this was about an escape ... It was also about loss of life."
Sheriff Hall said the arrest came after an investigation stemming from a previous case involving Friedmann, who was arrested in January on charges including attempted burglary for allegedly posing as a construction worker to enter a different detention center multiple times, stealing keys, and diagraming the layout of the center, which was still being built and not in use at the time.
A press release from the sheriff’s office said that corrections officials noticed on Dec. 30 that two keys were missing. They viewed surveillance video and saw someone dressed as a construction worker who matched Friedmann’s description taking a key ring, then coming back and replacing it with two keys missing. -Fox News
Friedmann was one of several consultants to Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign advising him on criminal justice issue. According to Fox News, his input resulted in Sanders introducing a bill aimed at eliminating private prisons. In 2015, Friedmann told The Atlantic that the bill didn't go far enough.
"It appears to be more for political purposes than to actually address the many problems in our criminal justice system," he said.
Friedmann, who was associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center and managing editor of its Prison Legal News publication, was released following that arrest after he posted $2,500 bond, and the case is still pending. HRDC director Paul Wright declined to comment on the allegations but told Fox News that Friedmann resigned from the organization following his January arrest. -Fox News
Friedmann's attorney, Ben Raybin, told Fox News that it was "important to clarify that the new vandalism charge stems from alleged conduct arising last year, and not any recent actions occurring after his previous arrest," adding that his client returned the keys to the sheriff's office and had been cooperative.
"Mr. Friedmann surrendered himself immediately after being advised of the new charge," he said.
Friedmann is currently in custody with a $2.5 million bond. His next court appearance is Feb. 26, while the previous case has an April 6 appearance.