Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Alex Friedmann tried to hold up a store. The owner wouldn’t cooperate and a gunfight ensued. He was convicted of armed robbery and assault with intent to commit murder and sentenced to 20 years in jail.
“Not all inmates are crack dealers or low-life scumballs,” Friedmann told the Chicago Tribune. “There are many different types of people in prison with many different points of view.”
While in prison, Friedmann obsessively wrote letters to publications, some on the outside and some on the inside. One of these was Prison Legal News, a newsletter founded by Paul Wright, who had been in prison for killing a drug dealer during a robbery. Friedmann eventually became its managing editor.
Despite the 20 years sentence, he only served 10 years, and was out in 1999. In 2008, he made headlines for waging a legal battle to be able to vote in time for the 2008 presidential election.
“We have a history-setting presidential election coming up,” he told reporters, “It’s good to be able to participate.”
The criminal justice reforms of the seventies had led to exploding crime rates and a backlash in the eighties. By the nineties, a bipartisan crackdown on crime had made America a lot safer, and by the oughts, a revitalized lefty activist movement capitalized on reduced public concern about crime to launch a second wave of pro-crime activism, treating robbers, murderers, and rapists as victims.
Friedmann became the associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, founded by Wright, the managing editor of Prison Legal News, with a column by Mumia Abu Jamal, and vice president of the Private Corrections Institute. His campaign against prisons made him a hero to pro-crime progressives.
The ex-con provided material for Michael Moore, John Oliver, and David E. Kelley’s Boston Legal. Democrats brought him in to testify in the House and the Senate. His attacks on a Bush judicial nominee derailed the judge’s nomination and won him glowing praise from lefty media publications and press.
By 2018, Friedmann was receiving an $85,000 salary from the Human Rights Defense Center, whose publication of Prison Legal News, the former jailhouse newsletter, was backed by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, People for the American Way, Borealis Philanthropy, and other lefty big money groups. HRDC’s board included multiple former presidents of the National Lawyers Guild, a radical pro-crime group with origins in and extensive ties to the Communist Party. Its fans included Cambodian genocide denier Noam Chomsky, terror lawyer William Kunstler, and radical billionaire George Soros.
Soros had provided HRDC with a $200,000 grant and his OSF continued to support the criminal organization including, by subsidizing a fellow advocating on behalf of sex offenders.
Wright had moved to Vermont after his release, so it wasn’t too surprising when Friedmann came on board to advise Senator Bernie Sanders. He even provided the name for Sanders’ prison bill. Sanders had endorsed the Boston Marathon bomber voting from prison and his support derived from the same radical swamps that had turned the former inmate into a civil rights hero for attacking prisons.
And then it all blew up.
On December 30, 2019, the former Davidson County ex-con entered the Downtown Detention Center in that same county. A press release from Nashville-Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall noted that Friedmann had entered the maximum-security facility “fraudulently” while dressed as a construction worker. After taking a set of keys, he was caught with bolt cutters and a schematic of the prison.
According to the sheriff’s office, the Soros-funded ex-con tried to rip up and eat the document.
It was not Friedmann’s first time entering the newly constructed prison before it was to be occupied.
While the former Bernie Sanders adviser was booked on a Class A Felony vandalism charge with a $2.5 million bond, Sheriff Daron Hall emphasized that the actions by the ex-con, who had served time for armed robbery and assault with intent to commit murder, was about a lot more than that.
“Throughout the last several weeks, it was discovered that Mr. Friedmann had developed and implemented a deliberate and, in my opinion, evil plan, this plan went far beyond vandalism, all designed to assist in a massive escape plan,” Sheriff Daron Hall announced in a press conference.
“What disturbed me most is not that this was about an escape, it was all about loss of life,”
“Mr. Friedmann, a convicted felon and self-described criminal justice advocate, planted loaded guns with additional ammunition inside this detention center,” he noted that, “staff working inside a detention center is never armed. Let me be very clear – he also put every inmate at risk, every visitor at risk, and he put the entire community in jeopardy.”
Sheriff Hall described these alleged crimes by the criminal justice reform advocate as, “unprecedented”.
The HRDC has since disavowed Friedmann. And his former allies have expressed shock at how a former attempted murderer who had built a career advocating for criminals in prison could have actually taken, what lefties call, direct action on their behalf. The shock is hypocritical and the outrage is feigned.
As Daniel Horowitz, who has spent a great deal of time writing about the folly of criminal justice reform, notes, “If anything, Friedmann himself is a living example of the need for longer sentences and stronger deterrent, even as he advocates for jailbreak.”
Meanwhile Friedmann appears to have created a GoFundMe fundraiser on his behalf (the lefty dot com bans fundraising for hate crimes, but not planting loaded guns in a prison) which states that, “due to the pending criminal charges, he is unable to explain his actions, provide any context or respond to the news reports concerning his arrest. However, Alex’s longstanding commitment to criminal justice reform, and improvement of prison and jail conditions, gives us reason to believe that his intentions were consistent with his history of advocacy and activism.”
That much is no doubt true.
Friedmann has spent a long time attacking prisons and defending criminals. His advocacy and activism were backed by a laundry list of lefty groups. He spoke at Yale, appeared at events put on by the ACLU, the Presbyterian Criminal Justice Association, the National Lawyer’s Guild, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, and many others.
Friedmann was widely quoted in the media which helped create this monster.
It’s possible for someone to be convicted of a serious crime and come out of prison a better person. But that requires understanding that they did something wrong. There’s no reform without repentance.
Friedmann was a jailhouse lawyer who boasts of being a MENSA member and, with the aid of an eager progressive movement, took on the cloak of a martyr who had suffered at the hands of the prison system. The same system which let him out after only serving half his term and gave him a new career.
No one asked about his victim.
Not George Soros, John Oliver, or Michael Moore.
Asking Friedmann if he had reformed would have been insulting. After all, he was the real victim.
The fundamental assumption of criminal justice reform is that the robbers, murderers and rapists, are the victims of an unfair and unfeeling system that plucks children from school and plants them in prison, that sweeps up minorities for minor offenses, and takes people with few options and locks them up.
Criminal justice reform demands that we ignore the victims, wave away uncomfortable questions with some nonsense about restorative justice being better for the victims than locking up the perpetrators. And then get right back to the hoary old Marxist cant: muggers are the oppressed, rapists are the wretched of the earth, murderers are revolutionaries, and pedophiles are the proletariat.
“I just knew him as an advocate,” Metro Council Member Freddie O’Connell told Nashville’s Channel 5. “I’m still of in a state of shock somebody I had been literally sitting in a conference table with months ago is now not just apprehended, but these charges are quite severe in nature.”
Who could have imagined that the criminal he was sitting at a conference table with was a criminal?