An ex-cop accused of racial bias could result in 400 convictions being thrown out in Virginia, according to the Washington Post.
Prosecutors in Fairfax County said Friday they want to throw out the convictions—including one involving Elon Wilson, an ex-D.C. firefighter who’s been in prison for more than two years—because ex-cop Jonathan Freitag allegedly made up reasons to stop Black people, with “potentially racially biased motive and racially biased impact.”
Fairfax Circuit County Judge Daniel Ortiz said Friday he was “inclined” to release Wilson from prison, a move that was praised by Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano. Descano also said in a statement Friday that his office “will take every possible action to remedy the 400+ convictions associated with [Freitag].”
Freitag, a 25-year-old who resigned last year after working for Fairfax County for more than three years, has also been accused of planting drugs on innocent people and stealing cocaine and weed from evidence, as well as falsifying police records. Freitag has been under investigation by the FBI and Fairfax County since May 2020, according to the Post; so far, however, he hasn’t been charged.
“Multiple people accused the officer of planting drugs,” Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano and deputy Kyle Manikas wrote in a filing obtained by the Post. “In several cases handled by the officer, narcotics went missing from the property room, including cocaine and marijuana. The officer repeatedly edited police reports in cases where the narcotics went missing, sometimes over 100 times in a single case.”
During his three years as a cop, Freitag was involved in more than 900 cases that resulted in 400 convictions including seven felonies, according to the Post. Twenty-one pending cases involving Freitag have already been dismissed.
Freitag and his attorney, Brandon Shapiro, denied Descano’s characterization that there was a “racial component” in the stops in statements to the Post. “Clearly Steve Descano has an agenda,” Freitag told the Post. “I will continue to stick by my word of me doing nothing wrong.” The law office of Shapiro, a former Fairfax County prosecutor himself, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
After the allegations and investigation against him came to light last year, Freitag got a job with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida in August 2020. He was reportedly fired on April 1 after the Post asked the Sheriff’s Office about Freitag’s new job there; the Fairfax County Sheriff’s office apparently never told Brevard about the investigation into Freitag, although it had been public information for months, according to the Post.
Brevard County is now reportedly investigating Freitag’s arrests there during his seven months on the job.
Elon Wilson was stopped and arrested on April 3, 2018, as Freitag said Wilson crossed over the yellow line while driving and that the tint on Wilson’s car windows were darker than legally permissible. Freitag later admitted that he never tested the windows and hadn’t seen Wilson cross the line, according to Fox 5 DC.
During a search of Wilson’s car, Freitag allegedly found drugs including oxycodone and a gun that Wilson said belonged to his passenger, but Wilson ultimately faced 10 years in prison on drug and gun charges, and pleaded guilty in order to avoid a longer sentence and received three-and-a-half years in prison.
Wilson is the only person to remain in prison in the cases Freitag was involved with.
“What occurred in this case is a disgrace of monumental proportions, and a stain on the good work of many honest police officers and prosecutors,” Descano wrote in a brief obtained by the Post. “The conviction and sentence in this matter were unjustly obtained and if left uncorrected will undermine confidence in our system of justice.”