‘Prophet of Doom’ pleads guilty in Brooklyn subway attack

Jan 2, 2023, 8:42 PM | Updated: Jan 3, 2023, 3:32 pm
FILE - New York City police and law enforcement officials lead subway shooting suspect Frank James,...

FILE - New York City police and law enforcement officials lead subway shooting suspect Frank James, center, away from a police station in New York on April 13, 2022. Prosecutors plan to seek a decades-long prison sentence for James, who is expected to plead guilty this week to opening fire in a subway car and wounding 10 riders in an attack that shocked New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A man who opened fire on a packed Brooklyn subway train last year, wounding 10 passengers in a rush-hour attack that shocked New York City, pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal terrorism charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.

Frank James, 63, who posted online that he was the “Prophet of Doom,” admitted in Brooklyn federal court to pulling the trigger on a Manhattan-bound train as it moved between stations on April 12, 2022 — an assault that prosecutors said was “intended to inflict maximum damage at the height of rush hour.”

James, wearing a beige jail jumpsuit and reading from a prepared statement, said he only intended to cause serious bodily injury, not death, but that he knew his actions could’ve been lethal.

Dressed as a maintenance worker, James fired a 9mm handgun at least 33 times after setting off a pair of smoke grenades — wounding victims ranging in age from 16 to 60 in the legs, back, buttocks and hand as the train pulled into a station in Sunset Park. He then fled in the haze and confusion, setting off a 30-hour citywide manhunt that ended when he called the police on himself.

James pleaded guilty to all 11 counts in his indictment, including 10 counts of committing a terrorist attack against a mass transit system — one for each wounded passenger. The terrorism charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The other charge — firing a firearm during a violent crime — has a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors are seeking to put him in prison for decades. His lawyers — arguing that his conduct amounted to aggravated assault, not attempted murder — said he shouldn’t serve more than 18 years. James doesn’t have a plea agreement.

Previously, he vowed to fight the charges and refused to leave his jail cell to appear at an earlier court hearing, leading Judge William F. Kuntz II to issue an order instructing U.S. Marshals to use “all necessary force” to ensure that James showed up to Tuesday’s plea hearing.

Several victims attended the proceeding, but none wanted to talk to reporters. James did not express remorse, but said he plans to do so when he is sentenced, likely in the summer.

“Mr. James has accepted responsibility for his crimes since he turned himself in to law enforcement,” James’ lawyers, Mia Eisner-Grynberg and Amanda David, said in a statement. “A just sentence in this case will carefully balance the harm he caused with his age, his health, and the Bureau of Prisons’ notoriously inadequate medical care.”

If the case had gone to trial, prosecutors said evidence would’ve refuted James’ claim that he intended only to injure, not kill. James had been planning the attack for at least four years and made a trial run a few months prior, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Winik said.

James set off smoke grenades before shooting so that passengers would flee to one side of the subway car, enabling him to shoot them more easily, Winik said. The trajectory of his gunshots showed he was aiming “center mass” for maximum lethality, she said.

The attack upended the ritual of the morning commute, “endangering the lives of countless New Yorkers who rely on the safety of the subway system every day,” Winik said.

Before the shooting, James, who is Black, posted dozens of videos online in which he ranted about race, violence and his struggles with mental illness, sometimes adopting the moniker “Prophet of Doom.”

He decried the treatment of Black people and talked about how he was so frustrated, “I should have gotten a gun and just started shooting.” In one video, he appeared to be in a packed New York City subway car, raising his finger to point out passengers one by one.

James, who’s been locked up at a Brooklyn federal jail since his arrest, told Kuntz that a jail psychologist visits him once a month “to speak with me and see how I’m doing.”

James’ lawyers informed the judge on Dec. 21 that he wanted to plead guilty, an about-face from his earlier vow to fight the charges at trial.

In a jailhouse interview with The Associated Press in August, James spoke about his lifelong struggle with mental health and the notoriety he gained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he befriended the disgraced R&B star R. Kelly.

“It’s going to be a long case,” James said. “People don’t have enough information yet to judge me… All in all I’m a good person at heart. I’ve never hurt anybody.”

James was arrested in Manhattan a day after the shooting after calling a police tip line to say where he was. Police were already searching the area after a sharp-eyed high school photography student called in a tip about a man, believed to be the suspect, sitting on a bench with a duffel bag.

Prosecutors said a trove of evidence connected James to the attack. His bank card, cellphone and a key to a van he had rented were found at the shooting scene. Officers also found the handgun they said was used in the shooting; tracing records show James purchased the gun from a licensed gun dealer in Ohio in 2011.

In court papers, prosecutors suggested James had the means to carry out more attacks, noting that he had ammunition and other gun-related items in a Philadelphia storage unit. The New York City native had been living in Milwaukee and Philadelphia prior to the shooting.

__

Associated Press reporters Jim Mustian and Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - The Starbucks logo is seen on a storefront, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston Starbucks repor...
Associated Press

Starbucks misses sales, revenue estimates as China falters

Starbucks reported lower-than-expected sales in its fiscal first quarter, with COVID store shutdowns in China overshadowing stronger results elsewhere.
23 hours ago
A girl looks at a photo of the famed mountain lion known as P-22 as the exhibit wall is covered wit...
Associated Press

Famed LA mountain lion’s death shines light on tribal talks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The life of Los Angeles’ most famous mountain lion followed a path known only to the biggest of Hollywood stars: Discovered on-camera in 2012, the cougar adopted a stage name and enjoyed a decade of celebrity status before his tragic death late last year. The popular puma gained fame as P-22 […]
23 hours ago
FILE - A ferry berths as a partially illuminated Colombo Lotus Tower, a multi complex digital trans...
Associated Press

Sri Lanka marks independence anniversary amid economic woes

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka marked its 75th independence anniversary on Saturday as a bankrupt nation, with many citizens angry, anxious and in no mood to celebrate. Many Buddhists and Christian clergy had announced a boycott of the celebration in the capital, while activists and others expressed anger at what they see as […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Friday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Chiawana 84, Hanford 44 Cle Elum/Roslyn 78, Kittitas 25 Clover Park 75, Washington 53 Crescent 44, Clallam Bay 34 Davis 65, Sunnyside 63 DeSales 81, Sunnyside Christian 67 Eastside Prep 59, University Prep 51 Enumclaw 57, Franklin Pierce 48 Foss 71, Orting 41 Gonzaga Prep 62, Ferris 50 Kelso 67, Evergreen (Vancouver) […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Friday’s Scores

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL= Anacortes 70, Sedro-Woolley 18 Archbishop Murphy 64, Marysville-Pilchuck 14 Bellevue Christian 37, Annie Wright 31 Black Hills 43, Rochester 33 Cheney 39, North Central 36 Chiawana 65, Hanford 36 Clarkston 72, Pullman 29 Clover Park 51, Washington 18 College Place 52, Kiona-Benton 23 Colton 73, St. John-Endicott/Lacrosse 24 Columbia River 38, Ridgefield […]
23 hours ago
FILE - The American and Chinese flags wave at Genting Snow Park ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, ...
Associated Press

China balloon: Many questions about suspected spy in the sky

WASHINGTON (AP) — What in the world is that thing? A massive white orb sweeping across U.S. airspace has triggered a diplomatic maelstrom and is blowing up on social media. China insists it’s just an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds. With only limited “self-steering” capabilities. […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
‘Prophet of Doom’ pleads guilty in Brooklyn subway attack