Frank R. James, the alleged gunman who terrorized commuters in a Brooklyn subway station last month, pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges that include terrorism and acts of violence against a mass transportation system.
James, who stands accused of injuring 23 people during the April 12 mass shooting in Sunset Park’s 36th Street subway station, was arraigned before a federal judge on May 13 on charges including one count of committing or attempting to commit an act of terrorism or other violence against a mass transportation system, and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
The native Bronxite, 62, pleaded not guilty to both charges Friday, and faces life behind bars if convicted of the top count. James, who has grown a beard since the start of his pretrial detention, confidently answered questions posed to him by the presiding judge, William Kuntz, about his competence to stand trial, and when asked how he was doing, replied “pretty good.”
The suspect allegedly got on the Manhattan-bound N train at Kings Highway early that Tuesday morning, donning a disguise as a construction worker. When the train pulled into 36th Street station just before 8:30 am, he put on a gas mask, pulled canisters out of his bag that filled the subway car with smoke, and fired 33 shots at terrified straphangers. Ten victims suffered gunshot wounds, but all survived the attack thanks to quick thinking by heroic transit workers.
Dramatic footage from the scene showed smoke billowing out of the train car as coughing riders ran out and wounded commuters hobbled onto the platform, with blood stains covering the ground.
Authorities later said that James got off the train and boarded an R train on the other side of the platform alongside some of his victims. He apparently rode it one stop north to 25th Street station where he slipped away and out of the underground transit system, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig.
Cops cuffed James, 62, in the East Village after a more-than-30-hour manhunt. James allegedly called the police on himself from an East Village McDonald’s and was apprehended nearby. He was first arraigned on terrorism charges on April 14, and indicted by a grand jury on May 6.
James’ motive for the bloodbath remains unclear, but prior to the attack, he kept an active YouTube presence where he posted videos often featuring bizarre rants under the alter ego “Prophet of Doom.” In his videos, where he often discussed racism and various conspiracy theories, he sometimes threatened to shoot people and commit violent acts, and called out Mayor Eric Adams by name, calling himself a “victim” of the city’s mental health system.
“Mr. Mayor, I’m a victim of your mental health program,” James said in a YouTube tirade. His channel has since been removed from the website.
James is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center — not far from his alleged crimes — without bail, and is set to return to court on July 25.
His defense attorney, Mia Eisner-Grynberg of the Federal Defenders, declined to comment on the plea outside the courthouse on Friday afternoon.
Additional reporting by Kevin Duggan