Frank R. James, who was accused of shooting 10 people last April on the New York subway in one of the worst attacks in years, is expected to plead guilty to terrorism in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday, according to court records.
Mr. James, 63, initially pleaded not guilty, but his court-appointed lawyers from the New York Federal Defenders said last month that he would plead guilty in an 11-point indictment that charged him with 10 terrorist attacks. – one for each of the 10 people shot in the subway – and also on a firearm charge.
He faces a possible life sentence.
Mr. James’ lawyers did not respond to messages on Monday.
Officials said that during the morning rush last April 12, Mr. James set fire to an N train in Brooklyn.
No one died, but the attack sparked a 31-hour manhunt and angered New Yorkers as law enforcement scoured the city in search of Mr. James. Police caught Mr. James in the East Village of Manhattan after he called the police hotline to report the whereabouts of several people, including himself.
The lead shower, which emerged as subway passenger numbers began to rise after crashing during the pandemic, once again underlined the fragility of the public transit system and New Yorkers’ concerns about crime and safety. It also shed light on the city’s gap in mental health services.
New York’s Mental Illness Policy
After a series of high-profile crimes involving homeless New Yorkers, the city said it would take aggressive action.
- A New Policy : Mayor Eric Adams announced efforts to remove people with serious, untreated mental illness from the city’s streets and subways. Here’s what you need to know about the plan.
- Behind the Shift:Brian Stettin, the mayor’s counselor for serious mental illness, has worked with a psychiatrist for more than a decade calling for mandatory outpatient treatment for people with a history of refusing medication.
- Involving the Police :The policy will test an already strained relationship between mentally ill people and the NYPD.
- Repel:Advocates for the homeless and the mentally ill, and other politicians, said the policy would face legal challenges and would not address the root causes of the problems, including the lack of housing.
James, who has been detained since his arrest in a prison near the Brooklyn subway station where the attack took place, has a past mental illness, according to his lawyers.
He had grown up in the Bronx but largely separated from his family, moving to several cities including Philadelphia, Newark, Chicago, and Milwaukee but never settling in. He had a history of arrests in New York and New Jersey.
In the weeks before he was shot, Mr. James had posted quarrelsome videos on social media talking about the city’s subway system and its approach to crime. But according to officials, there was no clear reason for the subway attack.
James had booked and paid for a U-Haul van in Philadelphia the week before the attack, drove it to Brooklyn before dawn that day and parked it there before entering the subway system.
The day he was shot, a masked man in an orange vest threw two smoke grenades at a train car before shooting at the passengers, according to security camera footage.
In the turmoil that followed, the gunman escaped, but left a number of items on the train, including a gun, ammo, bank cards and a U-Haul key, according to court files.
In November, Mr. James’s lawyers filed a request for his trial to be moved outside of New York, possibly to Illinois, on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial in Brooklyn.
Also that month, Mr. James did not appear in a scheduled trial, angering the trial judge.
“This is not a high school prom invitation,” Judge William F. Kuntz told the court. “Whether he chooses to be here without citations is not his decision.”
Judge Kuntz cited the incident in an order last week that authorized the US Police Force to “use all necessary force to bring him back” to the court on Tuesday if Mr James refused to participate.
Rebecca Davis O’Brien contributed to the reporting.