'Prophet of Doom' Sentenced in NYC Subway Attack

Victims try to tell the court about the trauma they've endured since the shooting
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 3, 2023 5:39 PM CST
Updated Oct 5, 2023 4:40 PM CDT
'Prophet of Doom' Pleads Guilty in NYC Subway Attack
Law enforcement officials lead subway shooting suspect Frank James away from a police station and into a vehicle in New York on April 13, 2022.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
UPDATE Oct 5, 2023 4:40 PM CDT

After several victims tearfully and angrily told the court about their ongoing trauma, a judge sentenced the man who sprayed a New York City subway car with bullets to life in prison. Frank James, 64, had pleaded guilty earlier this year to terrorism charges. A 51-year-old man said he had post-traumatic stress disorder and thoughts of suicide, the AP reports. His voice cracking, another man said, "I have not been able to make sense of it." A 21-year-old man began his testimony by speaking of forgiveness but broke down sobbing. "I can't do this," he said, then walked out of the courtroom. James expressed contrition but criticized the mental health system, saying it had failed, especially for people of color like him. US District Judge William Kuntz told him his actions were "pure evil."

Jan 3, 2023 5:39 PM CST

A man who opened fire on a 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. Frank James, who had posted online that he was the "Prophet of Doom," appeared in a Brooklyn federal court and admitted to pulling the trigger on a Manhattan-bound train as it moved between stations on April 12, 2022, the AP reports. He didn't have a plea agreement, and prosecutors are seeking to put him in prison for decades. James, 63, wearing a beige jail jumpsuit and black-rimmed glasses, said he only intended to cause serious bodily injury, not death. Since the shooting, James has been jailed in a federal lockup just blocks from where the attack took place.

He 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. He previously had vowed to fight the charges. Several victims of the shooting were in court for James' guilty plea, but none wanted to talk to reporters afterward. At the hearing, Assistant US Attorney Sara Winik said James "intended to inflict maximum damage at the height of rush hour." According to prosecutors, James set off a pair of smoke grenades and fired a barrage of random shots inside the train, bloodying passengers as it moved between stations in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood. Dressed as a maintenance worker, James then fled in the haze and confusion, setting off a 30-hour citywide manhunt that ended when he called the police on himself.

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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. 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.

(More subway attack stories.)

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