Criminal Justice Activist Who Once Offered Bernie Sanders Advice Arrested for Jailbreak Plot

Alex Friedmann

A man who once gave advice to presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly planting weapons and ammunition at the construction site of a prison being built in Nashville.

Law enforcement said Alex Friedmann, who in 2015 advised Sanders about criminal justice reform legislation, was developing a plot to help future inmates escape from the prison.

His interaction with Sanders was detailed in a 2015 article in The Atlantic:

[Sanders] now speaks of the “four types of violence waged against black and brown Americans”—not only the economic, but also the physical, political, and legal. In late August and early September, he actively consulted with stakeholders in criminal-justice reform, trying to learn as much as he could. He “asked us questions like, ‘How are private prisons defined?’; ‘What’s a halfway house?’; and ‘Tell us how to lower rates on phone calls to inmates,’” says Alex Friedmann, the managing editor of Prison Legal News and associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, and one of the experts consulted.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said at a press conference that Friedmann was charged with one count of felony vandalism, Fox News reported. The corrections facility was slated for an April opening.

“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 the press conference, which was aired by local NBC affiliate WSMV. “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.”

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

Fox News reported that Friedmann had a hand in Sanders introducing a bill in the Senate that would end privately owned prisons.

Friedmann told The Atlantic in the same 2015 article that he didn’t think Sanders’ bill went far enough to make certain all private prisons were closed.

“It appears to be more for political purposes than to actually address the many problems in our criminal justice system,” Friedmann said in the interview.

The arrest of someone with even a small link to Sanders comes as his campaign has come under scrutiny for some of his supporters’ questionable behavior toward those who don’t support the candidate. Breitbart News asked Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, about the controversy during the recent Democrat debate in Las Vegas, and Shakir repeated the discredited claim that President Donald Trump had referred to the extremists in Charlottesville, Virginia, as “very fine people.”

Breitbart News also reported on Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison asking for examples of “a ‘Bernie Bro’ being bad,” which provoked a strong response from Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was shot by a Sanders supporter during a congressional baseball practice in 2017.

“I can think of an example,” Scalise replied on social media.

Fox News reported on Friedmann’s troubled past:

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.

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.

“Mr. Friedmann surrendered himself immediately after being advised of the new charge,” Ben Raybin, Friedmann’s attorney, told Fox News.

Friedmann remains behind bars, with a $2.5 million bond in place and two court appearances set for February 26 and April 6.

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