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 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 prosecutors said was “intended to inflict maximum damage at the height of rush hour," reports the Associated Press. James said he intended only to cause serious bodily injury, not death, but that he knew his actions could’ve been lethal. 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. He 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, 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. His lawyers, arguing that his conduct amounted to aggravated assault, not attempted murder, said he shouldn’t serve more than 18 years.
James had vowed to fight the charges and refused to leave his jail cell to appear at an earlier court hearing, leading Judge William Kuntz II to order U.S. Marshals to use “all necessary force” to ensure that James showed up to Tuesday’s plea hearing. 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. 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. 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; James purchased the gun from a licensed gun dealer in Ohio in 2011. 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.