The circumstances surrounding the investigation of Freitag, who was allowed to resign to avoid termination after overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing surfaced, pointed out not only the threat to the criminal justice system by rogue cops but also the highly questionable practice of permitting them to resign and move to a different department.
Freitag was accused of planting drugs on innocent people, performing illegal traffic stops, and stealing drugs from the police evidence room, according to prosecutors, leading them to reexamine all of the convictions obtained as a result of his questionable tactics. According to the Washington Post, “Freitag [was involved] in 932 total cases during his three years as an officer, mostly traffic and misdemeanors, resulting in about 400 convictions. Seven were felonies.”
Of all of those prosecuted, only one individual was still incarcerated after being convicted as a result of Freitag’s actions. That was former D.C. firefighter Elon Wilson, whose attorney claimed that he had been victimized in an illegal traffic stop that resulted in a drug conviction. A Fairfax County judge in April of 2021 indicated that he was considering vacating his conviction and releasing him from jail.
“What occurred in this case is a disgrace of monumental proportions,” Fairfax County prosecutor Descano said in that case “and a stain on the good work of many honest police officers and prosecutors. The conviction and sentence in this matter were unjustly obtained and if left uncorrected will undermine confidence in our system of justice.” After the hearing, Descano said, “I just want to apologize to Elon Wilson and his family for what they’ve endured, because of the failings of the criminal justice system.”
In other cases, Descano said, “Multiple people accused the officer of planting drugs. 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.”
For his part, Freitag, who has not yet been formally charged with any crimes, denied any wrongdoing. “This is all news to me,” he said when asked to comment on Fairfax County prosecutor statements in the Wilson matter. Freitag “admitted to falsifying information in police records” to police internal affairs investigators and “admitted to a third party to engaging in racial profiling in determining which motorists to stop,” prosecutors said. “I have parted ways with Fairfax. Clearly [Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney] Steve Descano has an agenda. I will continue to stick by my word of me doing nothing wrong,” Freitag said.
The next noteworthy aspect of this case is the public attention directed at the dirty little secret of police discipline: disgraced officers are often permitted to resign without having formal charges being placed in their personnel file, leaving them free to reapply for police positions in other department without disclosing that prior misconduct.
This was apparently the case with Freitag. Fairfax human resources department stated to Brevard that he had not been “subject to disciplinary action,” “there are no disciplinary records in his file,” and further stating, “You resigned from the position in good standing, your employment was entirely favorable and you are eligible for re-hire.”
When the accusations finally came to light, Brevard county fired Freitag. Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey accused Fairfax of misleading them during the hiring process giving out, “misleading representations to our legitimate efforts to investigate” Freitag. Ivey continued, “[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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