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Suspect who turned himself in on subway shooting pleads not guilty

One month after a mass-transit bloodbath, Frank James told a federal judge he was feeling “pretty good” at his arraignment Friday.

BROOKLYN (CN) — The man accused of shooting up a New York City subway last month pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges on Friday in Brooklyn Federal Court. 

Frank James, 62, turned himself in after seeing he was wanted for the April 12 early morning shooting that injured at least 23 people, including several children, and left five in critical condition. He is said to have opened fire after setting off a smoke canister on a northbound N-train in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood. 

James entered the borough’s largest courtroom Friday carrying a small stack of papers, wearing a khaki button-down and pants, a blue mask mostly shielding his gray beard. 

U.S. District Judge William F. Kuntz asked James how he was doing, to which the accused shooter replied, “pretty good.” 

Kuntz read in full James’ indictment, returned by a grand jury on May 6. He is charged with one count of committing a terrorist attack and other violence against a mass transportation system, and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. If convicted on both, he faces between 10 years and life in prison. 

Federal agents say a search of properties associated with James in Pennsylvania turned up 9-millimeter ammunition; a threaded 9-millimeter pistol barrel, to which a silencer can attach; and ammunition used with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Law enforcement officers also found a stun gun, high-capacity rifle magazine and blue smoke canister, according to the criminal complaint

Police found keys to a U-Haul at the scene of the shooting, and officers tracked them to a vehicle parked two blocks away where they found a jacket with reflective tape that matched the one prosecutors say James is wearing in a surveillance video.

The complaint against Frank James includes this still from surveillance video shot at West Seventh Street and Kings Highway in Brooklyn, New York, at 6:12 a.m. on April 12, 2022. Encircled in red is an individual wearing a yellow hard hat and orange working jacket with reflective tape, using one arm to carry a backpack and another to drag a rolling bag. (Department of Justice via Courthouse News)

After the shooting, it came to light that James posted hourlong, rambling videos on his now-deactivated YouTube account, ranting in some about New York City Mayor Eric Adams, politics and violence. In one, titled “DOMESTICATED AVERAGES,” he talks about becoming violent himself. 

“I’ve been through a lot of shit. I can say I wanted to kill people. I wanted to watch people die right in my fucking face,” James says. “But … I don’t want to go to fucking prison.”

Appearing with James in court Friday was his attorney Mia Eisner-Grynberg of the Federal Defenders of New York. She agreed to James remaining in jail at this time, and did not present a bail package. 

Eisner-Grynberg rebuffed Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Winik’s request for Judge Kuntz to designate the case as complex. 

“Your honor, at this point I think it’s premature to make that finding,” she said. Kuntz agreed to revisit the topic at the next court appearance, scheduled for July. 

Eisner-Grynberg did not comment on the arraignment. At James’ initial court appearance, she spoke to reporters outside the Brooklyn federal courthouse. She confirmed that it was James who saw his photograph on the news and called the Crime Stoppers hotline. 

“We are all still learning about what happened on that train, and we caution against a rush to judgment,” Eisner-Grynberg said. 

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