Alex Friedmann has been found guilty of vandalism in the amount of 250-thousand or above after the Davidson County jury heard three days of testimony and watched hours of video surveillance.
Friedmann, 53, was charged with felony vandalism after impersonating a construction contractor, stealing two keys and hiding three firearms and numerous blades in the walls of the Downtown Detention Facility while it was still under construction in 2019.
The jury deliberated for an hour before returning a guilty verdict for vandalism with damages in the amount of $250,000. The crime is a Class A felony and Friedmann faces between 25 and 40 years in prison.
Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall called the incident a “deliberate, evil” plan and said during the trial that he was sure there would have been massive loss of life if that contraband had been discovered by inmates.
Officers discovered in December 2019 that a maintenance key ring was different from others in the key control room and soon learned two keys were missing — a general movement key and a kitchen padlock key. Video footage revealed that Friedmann had been inside the control room, pocketed a set of keys and removed them from the facility for two hours before returning most of them.
Further footage showed Friedmann bringing tools into the facility, covering up security cameras and repeatedly returning to various areas of the detention center more than 20 times between August 2019 and when he was caught in January 2020.
The DCSO replaced 1,800 locks after the break-in and delayed opening the facility for several months. Authorities estimated the cost to change those locks, and labor to review thousands of hours of video footage, was more than $600,000.
In closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter said the sheriff’s office had two options.
“Either tear down the entire building or replace all the keys,” she said. “It was not a hard choice for them.”
From the beginning, Ben Raybin, Friedmann’s attorney, argued the state was overcharging his client. He said the law is twofold — there first needs to be proof of damage, and then the value of that damage needs to be determined.
The damage was never in dispute. Friedmann dug into the walls and hid weapons there. He did vandalize the facility, but Raybin argued he never damaged the keys or damaged the locks. The cost to change the locks and to review the video footage, the attorney said, was a “collateral cost” and not covered under the law.
“Why did they have to change the locks?” Raybin asked. “Because they were removed, not because they were damaged.”
Deputy District Attorney Roger Moore said no matter which way the costs are dissected, they met the burden of proof that there was $250,000 in damages.
“Once the keys were removed, from that point on, what was the reasonable thing for the sheriff to do at that point?” Moore asked. “What we can prove is that he compromised, tampered and damaged that facility. Was there any other reasonable alternative? No.”
The Tennessean – July 21, 2022