According to his attorneys, Frank R. James is anticipated to enter a guilty plea to terrorism in connection with an April shooting rampage on a train in Brooklyn. James was accused of carrying out the bloodiest attack on the New York subway system in years.
In a letter sent on Wednesday to federal court in Brooklyn, Mr. James’ attorneys stated that he will enter a plea of guilty to an 11-count indictment that named him on charges of 10 counts of a terrorist attack for each of the 10 victims of the assault as well as a guns charge. A change-of-plea hearing was scheduled for January 3 by the judge presiding over the case.
According to the authorities, Mr. James opened fire on an N train in Brooklyn during the morning rush hour on April 12. Although no one was injured, the attack alarmed a lot of people in the city and sparked a 31-hour manhunt that ended with Mr. James’s capture in Manhattan.
The attack, which occurred as New Yorkers were beginning to gradually resume their weekday commutes that had been put on hold due to the pandemic, seemed to crystallize several crises in New York at once, including the vulnerability of the transit system and its users, shortages in mental health care, and the paradoxical ability of a suspect to vanish into a city of millions with hundreds of thousands of cameras. Up to Mr. James’ arrest, the city appeared to be frozen.
The 63-year-old Mr. James might receive a life sentence. A spokesperson for the Brooklyn office of the U.S. attorney, who filed the lawsuit, declined to comment.
NEW: Attorneys for accused subway shooter Frank James filed a letter with the court saying James wants to schedule a guilty plea to the superseding indictment charging him with 10 terrorism counts — one for each person hit with a bullet during the April 12 attack @CourthouseNews
— nina pullano (@NinaPullano) December 21, 2022
Mr. James’ legal counsel declined to respond. They stated in a brief letter to the court that Mr. James, who had previously pleaded not guilty, had informed them that he “wishes to schedule a guilty plea.”
On Tuesday, April 12, just before 8:30 a.m., a man with a mask and an orange vest detonated two smoke bombs and started shooting at a train car in Sunset Park. Social media was swamped with pictures of bloody subway platforms and smoke-filled train cars.
In the ensuing panic, the shooter fled and vanished into the city, but not before leaving a trail of camera surveillance footage across Brooklyn and a variety of possessions on the train, including a gun, ammunition, bank cards, and a key for a U-Haul.
Mr. James was quickly recognized by the authorities, who believed he had been preparing an attack for days. Before dawn on that day, he drove a U-Haul van into Brooklyn that he had reserved and paid for in Philadelphia the week before. He parked the van in Brooklyn, according to the authorities, and then entered the subway.
There was no discernible reason. In recent weeks, Mr. James had posted heated videos on social media where he voiced his displeasure with the subway system and other municipal crime issues. He was previously detained in New York and New Jersey, and he appeared to have led an erratic and unsteady existence.
After the attack, law authorities searched the city and its surroundings for Mr. James for more than a day.
After numerous people, including Mr. James himself, called the police tip line to report his movements, he was apprehended in the East Village.
Since his arrest, Mr. James has been held at a jail in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from the subway station where the attack happened.
Mr. James’ court-appointed attorneys with the Federal Defenders of New York have mentioned his history of mental illness in court documents.
Because they believed Mr. James would not be able to receive a fair trial in Brooklyn, his attorneys submitted a request in November asking to have the case transferred to another jurisdiction, maybe in Illinois.
Judge William F. Kuntz, who was in charge of the case, became upset with Mr. James later that month when he skipped a planned court appearance. This is not a high school prom invitation, Judge Kuntz declared to the court, therefore if necessary, U.S. marshals are authorized to bring him to court by force. He doesn’t get to decide whether or not he wants to remain here, quote-unquote.
Several hours later, Mr. James made his court appearance.
The trial had been scheduled to begin in late February. Mr. James’s attorneys had asked for the trial to be postponed one day prior, claiming difficulties with the government’s provision of evidence. The request was refused by Judge Kuntz.