Frank James, the alleged perpetrator of the April 12 mass shooting aboard an N train in Sunset Park, told a federal judge on Monday that, all things considered, he’s been disappointed with the press covering his case.
Asked by Judge William Kuntz how he was doing at a July 25 hearing at the Brooklyn federal courthouse, James gave a markedly different answer from the “pretty good” he answered with at his last hearing on May 13.
“Not too good,” James said in response to the question from Kuntz. “Reading some things in the press I’m not happy about.”
Nonetheless, James, dressed in a tan prison jumpsuit, said he has been able to enjoy some baseball games amidst his pretrial detention at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, where he allegedly formed a jailhouse friendship with R. Kelly before the disgraced R&B phenom was transferred to another federal facility in Chicago.
James’ attorney, Mia Eisner-Grynberg of the Federal Defenders, declined to comment after the hearing on what press coverage has upset her client.
The Bronx native, 62, has pleaded not guilty to charges of committing an act of terrorism on a mass transit system and of discharging a firearm with intent to cause bodily harm in relation to the Sunset Park shooting, in which he is the sole suspect. He stands accused of setting off smoke canisters and firing 33 rounds from a 9 mm Glock pistol aboard a crowded Manhattan-bound N train during the morning rush hour as it pulled into the 36th Street station. 29 people were injured during the attack, including 10 from gunshot wounds, but incredibly, no one died due to the quick thinking of heroic transit workers.
Following his rampage, James allegedly slipped away from the scene on an R train departing across the platform, left the system one stop north at 25th Street, and aimlessly wandered the Big Apple for 30 hours until finally being apprehended in the East Village, allegedly after calling the police on himself from a McDonald’s.
Two weeks after being taken into federal custody at MDC, James’ attorneys allege that FBI agents came to his cell and illegally questioned him, swabbed him for DNA, and made him sign a number of documents — all without notifying his counsel or presenting a search warrant to the defense. The prosecution denied that they hadn’t presented a search warrant and said that the FBI had not “compelled” James to do anything, and a judge ultimately dismissed the defense’s motion to toss any evidence associated with the visit.
Judge Kuntz agreed on Monday to tentatively set Feb. 27, 2023 as the start date for James’ jury trial, where if found guilty he could face the rest of his life behind bars. However, due to the complex nature of the case — with tens of thousands of pages of discovery — Kuntz and attorneys for the prosecution and defense acknowledged that the trial could easily be delayed later than that.
James’ ultimate 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’ next scheduled court date is set for Wednesday, Oct. 12.