More than 400 Virginia convictions connected to officer could be overturned
Prosecutors discovered evidence suggesting the arresting officer, Jonathan Freitag, had racist motives
Officer Jonathan Freitag, 25, is accused of making up reasons to pull people over and planting drugs in their vehicles in Fairfax County Virginia, according to a report by The Washington Post.
Criminal charges have not yet been filed against Freitag, but he is now under investigation after a surveillance video of his arrest of a former firefighter reportedly revealed that the driver did nothing illegal to justify Freitag’s traffic stop.
On Friday, defense attorneys and prosecutors argued for the release of Elon Wilson, who lost his job as a Washington, D.C. firefighter after being sentenced to prison as result of Freitag’s suspected misconduct, according to a story by the Associated Press.
Freitag stopped the Black 23-year-old man on April 3, 2018, claiming that he swerved over the center yellow line, according to The Post. Upon searching Wilson’s car, Freitag allegedly found drugs and a firearm. In 2019, Wilson accepted a 3-year plea deal to avoid a maximum sentence of 10 years, though he maintained his innocence, as reported by local radio station WTOP.
Multiple further complaints inspired the Fairfax County Police Department to begin reviewing hundreds of the officer’s stops. During the investigation, not only did Freitag confess that the stops were “pretext” for searching vehicles for drugs and guns, prosecuting attorney Steve Descano said Freitag’s stops displayed “potentially racially biased motive and racially biased impact,” according to The Post.
“They looked at 1,400 stops. When you’re looking at the stops, a very clear pattern emerged,” read a court filing from Descano, the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney. “The officer involved has a long history of improper and unjust stops with a racially disparate impact,” Descano told WTOP.
According to The Post, Descano said Freitag admitted to someone that he was targeting Black people in the stops, but Freitag denies the allegations of racism.
Of the 932 cases in which Freitag was involved while employed by the Fairfax police, 7 cases were felonies, as reported by prosecutors, and in addition to the approximately 400 convictions under review, 21 pending cases have reportedly been thrown out, according to the Daily Mail.
Freitag was fired two weeks after being hired by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida in August 2020, having resigned from the Fairfax County Police Department just a few months earlier. After The Post inquired about Freitag’s employment with Brevard County, Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey accused Fairfax of providing “misleading representations to our legitimate efforts to investigate” Freitag.
The Post reported Ivey said it was “outrageous that an individual such as Mr. Freitag, with a history of alleged misconduct at the Fairfax County Police Department, had become a member of our agency and placed in a position that may have negatively impacted our citizens due to your agency’s misrepresentations.”
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