Former PLN Editor Settles Suit Over Detention in Tennessee ‘Iron Man’ Cell, Gets 40-Year Prison Term for Vandalizing Nashville Jail
by Benjamin Tschirhart
On September 29, 2022, former PLN Editor Alex Friedmann, 53, settled with the Tennessee Department of Corrections (DOC) in a federal action alleging his civil rights were violated when he was held 580 days in pretrial detention in an ‘Iron Man’ cell that he called “utterly barren and psychologically devastating.” It took an injunction from the federal court for the Middle District of Tennessee to finally get him out of the harsh confinement conditions in November 2021. [See: PLN, Jan. 2022, p.44.]
As noted in Friedmann’s suit, the only person who spent longer in an ‘Iron Man’ cell was Curtis Watson, who was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering DOC administrator Deborah Johnson following an escape from Tennessee State Prison in 2019. But Watson and Friedmann had something else in common: The enmity of law enforcement. In Friedmann’s case, that was evident from Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall’s comment: “His behavior is the most dangerous thing we have ever experienced.”
Hall was talking about an elaborate plot that Friedmann carried out to hide weapons in the walls of the Davidson County Detention Center while it was under construction in 2019.
“As far as I’m concerned,” Hall insisted, “he needs to be in the most secure environment there is not just today, but forever.”
In July 2022, a jury in Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Criminal Court convicted Friedmann of felony vandalism. For that, he was sentenced to a 40-year term with DOC by Judge Steve R. Dozier on October 6, 2022.
Friedmann was also convicted in the federal court of being a felon in possession of a weapon, entering a guilty plea on August 11, 2022. Prosecutors accepting his plea agreed to seek a term of 72 months, running concurrently with his state sentence, with credit for time served since his arrest on February 19, 2020 – meaning the sentence would conclude in early 2026. On January 26, 2023, he was sentenced to a 37-month term running from that date; still concurrent with his state sentence, that term will also end in early 2026. See: USA v. Friedmann, USDC (M.D. Tenn.), Case No. 3:21-cr-00095.
As part of his civil settlement with DOC, Friedmann was guaranteed he’ll face no discrimination in prison employment. Prison officials also agreed to policy changes to prevent holding pretrial detainees in restrictive conditions like those Friedmann endured in his ‘Iron Man’ cell at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, with painted-over gray slit windows and a steel plate bed. Even though not then convicted of any crime, he was also subjected to commissary restrictions and limited to non-contact visits only.
In addition, DOC agreed to pay $47,586.43 in fees and costs to Friedmann’s attorneys with David Randolph Smith & Associates in Nashville. See: Friedmann v. Parker, USDC (M.D. Tenn.), Case No. 3:21-cv-00721.
Friedmann is currently held in Bledsoe County Correctional Complex. DOC says he will not be eligible for parole consideration before January 2028.
Additional sources: Nashville Tennessean, WSMV, WZTV
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