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NYC Man Accused of Mass Subway Shooting to Plead Guilty to Multiple Federal Terrorism Counts and Gun Charge

Frank Robert James.

Frank Robert James.

The 63-year-old man accused of perpetrating a mass shooting inside of a New York City subway car in April that left dozens of commuters injured will plead guilty to new batch of federal terrorism charges.

A letter from attorneys representing Frank Robert James filed on Wednesday stated that the suspected shooter wishes “wishes to schedule a guilty plea” to a superseding indictment charging him with 10 counts of terrorism and other violence against a mass transportation system carrying passengers and employees, court documents reviewed by Law&Crime reveal.

The 10 terrorism charges reflect the number of victims who sustained gunshot wounds during the shooting. James is also charged with one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. Each of the 11 charges carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Prosecutors in May charged James with only a single terrorism charge, to which he pleaded not guilty.

Authorities previously said that James was the man who opened fire on an N-train car in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn during rush hour at approximately 8:26 a.m. on April 12.

James allegedly set off two smoke grenades on the second car of the Manhattan-bound subway train while it was heading from the 59th Street station to the 36th Street station, all within the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, Law&Crime previously reported. He then allegedly fired a 9mm semi-automatic handgun 33 times, hitting 10 people. In addition to the gunshot victims, 13 people were injured from smoke inhalation, falling down, or panic, Chief of Detectives James Essig told reporters at the time. No one died.

Police said James fled immediately after the mass shooting but was easily traceable based on evidence left at the scene.

“Searches of the scene of the attack revealed two bags, both of which were recovered from the scene,” FBI agent Jorge Alvarez wrote in a 10-page affidavit released back in April. “The first bag contained, among other items, a firearm, a plastic container containing gasoline, a torch, a U-Haul key, and multiple bank cards. The firearm was a Glock 17 pistol manufactured in Austria.”

Federal authorities wrote that records provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives showed that the firearm was “lawfully purchased in Ohio” by an individual named “Frank Robert James.”

James is believed to have rented the U-Haul in Philadelphia.  The authorities have said that they believe James drove the vehicle across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at approximately 4:11 a.m. and left it a few blocks away from the subway stop where the gunfire unfolded.

Police elsewhere said they found three extended magazines, two detonated smoke grenades, two non-detonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, and consumer-grade fireworks.  They further found a debit card issued to James.

James also reportedly posted a series of rambling monologues on social media accounts — including YouTube and Facebook — on subjects such as race, crime, and government.  He at times railed against defendants who pleaded for leniency from the courts.  At other times he spoke directly to New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams.

“What are you doing, brother? What’s happening with this homeless situation?” James was quoted asking in the video, which was reportedly removed from the platform. “Every car I went to wa[s] loaded with homeless people. It was so bad, I couldn’t even stand.”

Allegedly spouting off conspiracy theories, James added: “And so the message to me is: I should have gotten a gun, and just started shooting motherf—ers,” according to the FBI.

Just one day prior to notifying the court of James’ decision to plead guilty, his attorneys requested that his trial, which was scheduled to begin on Feb. 27, 2023, be postponed due to the additional charges in the superseding indictment. James’ attorneys said that the new charges would require them to “evaluate each of the victims’ injuries” in order to prepare his defense.

The government strenuously opposed the request, contending that the charges in the superseding indictment were “predicated on the same conduct and evidence as the original indictment.”

“This is not a new issue: regardless of how many counts are charged in the superseding indictment, the government always intended to introduce evidence related to victims of the shooting,” prosecutors wrote.  “The defendant knew this, as the government produced the names and prior statements of the gunshot victims in its initial production to the defendant months ago. The defendant has had months to investigate these victims, should he choose. Thus, any claim that the defendant is in a different position today because of the superseding indictment is inaccurate.”

Since his arrest, James has been held in pre-trial detention only blocks away from the subway station where he allegedly perpetrated the shooting.

James’ attorneys did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment from Law&Crime.

[image via NYPD]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.