A man charged with opening fire in a New York City subway train last month in an attack that wounded 10 people has pleaded not guilty Friday to “terrorism” and other charges.
Frank James entered the plea in federal court in Brooklyn, where US District Judge William F Kuntz began the proceeding by asking James, “How are you doing today?”
“Pretty good,” James responded.
Asked about his educational background, James said he attended public schools in the Bronx before earning a GED. He said he also attended some trade schools.
James, 62, is facing charges of committing a “terrorist” attack or other violence against a mass transportation system and discharging a firearm during a violent crime. Both counts carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The defendant was arrested April 13, about 30 hours after authorities say he drove from Philadelphia and set off smoke bombs and fired dozens of bullets in a train full of morning commuters as it approached a Brooklyn station. The shooting victims ranged in age from 16 to 60; all survived.
The shooting during the morning rush hour shut down portions of the transit system in the biggest city in the US, and sparked a widespread manhunt.
Videos showed commuters tending to people bleeding on the subway platform.
The assailant set off the smoke bombs as the subway car traveled between two stations then opened fire. People scrambled for the exits and ran from the train when it reached the next station.
Within hours, police named James a “person of interest”, then later a suspect.
Authorities said James’s bank card, cellphone and a key to a van he had rented were found at the shooting scene. Police also said they found the 9mm Glock semiautomatic handgun used in the shooting and traced it to James.
Defense attorney Mia Eisner-Grynberg had cautioned at the time of James’s arrest not to rush to judgement and noted that James alerted police to his whereabouts. He was arrested in Manhattan’s East Village after he called a tip line saying he was at a fast food restaurant in that section of the city.
At least one other person had called the tip line as well.
Eisner-Grynberg declined comment outside court Friday.
A motive for the attack is unclear. In numerous rants he posted on YouTube, James, who is Black, made bigoted remarks about people of various backgrounds and railed against New York Mayor Eric Adams and complained about mental health care he received in the city years ago.
James, who is being held without bail, is due back in court on July 25.