FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. - Fairfax County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Steve Descano, asked a judge to release a black DC firefighter, Elon Wilson, from prison after finding out the arresting officer lied about what happened during a traffic stop. Evidence reveals the incident was racially motivated.
Marvin Miller, Wilson’s attorney, said he is glad Fairfax County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney and Police Department aren’t shoving the situation under a rug because his client deserves the chance to rebuild his life.
"He was a real stand up firefighter for the District of the Columbia, a really good man, well-liked by his community, well-regarded by the fire department. A man who put his life on the line on a regular basis to help the citizens of the District of Columbia and it was all shattered by this case," said Miller.
Back in 2018, Wilson was pulled over by Officer Jonathan Freitag. The traffic stop happened around 2:15 a.m. on Telegraph Road in Alexandria as Wilson was leaving a recording studio.
Officer Freitag claimed Wilson crossed the solid yellow line and had windows tinted darker than the legal limit. However, during an internal review with the Fairfax County Police Department, Officer Freitag admitted the vehicle never went over the line and he never tested Wilson’s window. Wilson was ultimately sentenced to three years behind bars for possession of drugs and guns.
"Because Elon Wilson was not the only individual in the car, there is real doubt he was guilty of anything at all. The only reason that he plead guilty is because the culture in office and it threatened Mr. Wilson with mandatory sentences that were more than 10 years," said Descano.
Descano believes Wilson was charged due to the unfair criminal justice system and for that, he’s sorry.
"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," said Descano. "Every day since I learned about the situation, Mr. Wilson’s been in my head, in my heart, and I’m proud that we’re one step closer to having him back in the community."
At the time of the arrest, Wilson was only 23-years-old, had a clean criminal record, and his son was five months old.
"We have been working with incredible urgency. I will tell you – there has not been a day since I’ve learned about this that when I went to sleep at night that I didn’t think of Elon Wilson and what his family must be going through," said Descano.
The Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney learned the arresting officer, Jonathan Freitag, lied about why he pulled over Wilson’s car and had a history of racially-motivated traffic stops. Now, they are reviewing 400 additional cases involving the officer because authorities do not believe they can trust any of the work he did in Fairfax County.
"I can’t say how many of them are racially motivated. What I can say is that when you take a look at them, there’s definitely a racial despair impact and with that level of strong impact and with that level of strong impact, one can conclude very reliably what the motivation was," said Descano.
"I think about the headache it would be if I was the prosecutor dealing with that issue and the headache it would be if I was the police department, but I feel like there is a good, warm thing happening here in Fairfax in that the department and prosecutors are trying to correct things," said Miller.
Fox 5 has learned Freitag is under federal investigation. He resigned from the Fairfax County Police Department three years ago and has not been charged with any crime. After leaving Virginia, he went to Florida and joined the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. As of April 1 of this year, he is no longer a member of the department.
In court on Friday, Judge Daniel Ortiz concluded he plans to throw out the judgement against Wilson soon which would make him a free man early next week.
"I'd rather move forward with this as quickly as possible given the issues involved and Mr. Wilson's liberties," Ortiz said.
FOX 5 will stay on top of this story and keep you up to date with any new developments.