New York City subway gunman Frank James receives 10 life sentences

James injured 10 people in a shooting on a crowded subway car in Brooklyn.

October 5, 2023, 5:00 PM

Frank James will spend the rest of his life in prison after receiving 10 life sentences Thursday in Brooklyn federal court, one sentence for each victim of the April 2022 shooting aboard a subway car at rush hour.

"I alone am responsible for that attack," James said in court. "They in no way deserved to have what happened to them."

James, 64, said his actions were an attempt at "shining the light on certain conditions in the city where I was raised." James' attorney said his client did not receive the health care treatment he needed from the city.

On the morning of April 12, 2022, James detonated a smoke canister and opened fire on a Manhattan-bound N train in Brooklyn. Ten people were directly wounded by the gunfire, with over a dozen more receiving various other injuries during the incident.

PHOTO: FILE - New York City police and law enforcement officials lead subway shooting suspect Frank James, center, away from a police station in New York on April 13, 2022.
FILE - New York City police and law enforcement officials lead subway shooting suspect Frank James, center, away from a police station in New York on April 13, 2022. James, who sprayed the inside of a New York City subway train with gunfire and then slipped away in a stunned crowd, is set to be sentenced Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, in the morning rush-hour attack.
Seth Wenig/AP

Prosecutors had asked for life in prison. The sentencing hearing at Brooklyn federal court began at noon local time and there were victim impact statements given from the injured passengers.

"Perfect justice would require a power that neither this judge nor any other judge has in his or her hands to impose," Judge William Kuntz II said before announcing the sentence.

At a news conference following the hearing, Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said, "Today, justice has been served."

"During the morning rush hour on April 12, 2022, Frank James unleashed a premeditated attack on unsuspecting New Yorkers he trapped in a subway car, firing 32 shots and seriously wounding 10 people," Peace said. "For those acts, Frank James was sentenced to 10 concurrent sentences of life in prison and an additional 10-year consecutive sentence."

At the sentencing hearing, prosecutors revealed new information about James' movements and activities as he briefly eluded police after the shooting.

At some point after the shooting, James purchased a burner phone which he used to follow the coverage of his attack while hiding from law enforcement, according to prosecutors. James watched 31 videos of news reports about his subway shooting, prosecutors said.

He also watched a James Bond chase scene from the movie "No Time to Die" 10 times after the attack, according to prosecutors.

James turned himself in by calling the New York Police Department's Crime Stoppers hotline on April 13, 2022, the day after the mass shooting.

He pleaded guilty to all 11 counts of a superseding indictment, which included 10 counts of committing a terrorist attack or other violence against a mass transportation vehicle -- one count for each gunshot victim -- and one count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of his violent attack.

Following Thursday's hearing, James' attorneys told a judge that they intend to appeal the sentence.

"Today's life sentence delivered the necessary penalty for Frank James, who callously carried out a mass shooting on a crowded subway car, attempting to kill innocent people, and spilling much blood. He wounded 10 victims in his calculated attack and terrorized many more," Peace said.

During the post-hearing news conference, Peace called the New York City transportation system the "daily life blood" of the city New Yorkers depend on for safe transportation.

"Frank James attempted to take that sense of safety away and inject fear and chaos into the heart of the city," Peace said. "While he found temporary success in his plot, due to the resilience of New Yorkers and our relentless pursuit of justice, he ultimately failed."

Robert Kessane, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau's joint terrorism task force, added, "It is my hope the harsh punishment handed down by the court, helps bring closure and a sense of justice for the victims, and serves as a deterrent to anyone who would even think to travel and terrorize our city."

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