Brooklyn Subway Shooter Frank James Pleads ‘Not Guilty’ to Terrorism Charges

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New York City shooting suspect arrested, charged with terror offense - Credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
New York City shooting suspect arrested, charged with terror offense - Credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Accused subway shooter Frank James pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism and the use of a weapon in a violent crime at a Friday arraignment in Brooklyn federal court.

James is suspected of shooting 10 people on Tuesday, April 12, on an N-line subway train during the morning rush hour commute. Police arrested him in Manhattan’s East Village a day later after multiple people told authorities they’d seen him walking around the area. He has since been held without bail.

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Before James entered the room, two U.S. Marshals examined the underside of the table where James’ representation for the day, Federal Defender Mia Eisner-Grynberg, sat. A hush fell over the room as he walked in, towering over the pair of marshals. He wore a prison uniform: an olive-colored button-down shirt with short sleeves and matching pants. A blue surgical mask partially covered his graying beard stubble, but not his nose.

When Judge William F. Kuntz, II asked James how he was feeling today, James said, “pretty good.” Then, he answered a series of further questions from Kuntz, saying that he was born in the Bronx and has a GED and “some certificates from various trade schools.”

During the half-hour arraignment, Kuntz read the six-page indictment issued by a grand jury on May 6 in its entirety. The document charges James with terrorism on a mass transit system, claiming he “discharged a firearm at passengers on a Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway car,” and a second charge for using a firearm in a violent crime. If convicted, federal authorities have indicated they will seek forfeiture of James’ assets, including the Glock 17 pistol he is accused of firing aboard the subway car.

When Judge Kuntz asked James’ lawyer if the defense was prepared to plead, Eisner-Grynberg said, “Yes, we plead not guilty to each count.” The judge then asked James how he pleaded to count one and count two — he answered “Not guilty” to both. After the proceedings, he walked out the same door he’d entered, holding his hands behind his back.

The judge upheld a magistrate’s detention order to keep James in jail ahead of his trial; the defense made no application for bail. The government moved to designate the case a “complex case,” but the defense argued this was premature because they haven’t yet received or reviewed the scope of the government’s discovery. Kuntz agreed to wait until the next deadline, July 25, to decide on the issue.

According to the original complaint, James traveled from Philadelphia in a rented a U-Haul van to carry out the attack. New York City Police Department cameras allegedly captured James’ van as it crossed the Verrazano Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn in the early hours of that April morning. He parked near a subway entrance and donned a hard hat and orange vest, the complaint says. A couple of hours later, around 8:30 am, passengers started calling the police, reporting “multiple gunshots and explosions” on the subway.

On the morning of the attack, images proliferated on social media, showing commuters lying on the ground, bleeding, on the subway platform. The shootings came at a time where violent crime on the city’s mass transit system has captured headlines.

In YouTube videos seemingly posted by James, he criticized New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ plans to improve safety on the subways. “He can’t stop no fucking crime in no subways,” James said in one video, where he talked about the number of exit and entry points along a subway line. “He may slow it down, but he ain’t stopping shit.” In other videos, James, who is Black, went on racist rants targeting Black, white, Latino, and Jewish people. In one video, he called 9/11 “the most beautiful day in the history of this country.” At James’ first court appearance April 13, his federal defenders requested a psychiatric evaluation. However, they said they were requesting it as medical treatment, not to assess James’ competency to stand trial.

James’ lawyer offered no comment to reporters after the arraignment. If convicted, James faces the possibility of life in prison.

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