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December 9, 2023

Brooklyn subway shooter Frank James seeking 18 years in N train attack

Brooklyn subway shooter Frank James seeking 18 years in N train attack

Attorneys for a man who opened fire on a crowded New York subway train, injuring 10 and sparking an intense city-wide manhunt, are asking that he be sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Frank James, now 64, has been “tormented by lifelong paranoid schizophrenia,” his federal public defenders wrote in a sentencing memorandum this week.

James in January pleaded guilty to 11 federal counts, most of which were for committing a terrorist attack against a mass transit system, in connection with the April 2022 shooting.

Prosecutors are asking for what amounts to a life sentence — 10 life sentences served concurrently, or at the same time — plus 10 years, according to court documents they filed Wednesday.

“The attack was meticulously planned over a matter of months and years, contrary to the defendant’s arguments in his sentencing submission,” prosecutors wrote. “The defendant did not ‘snap,’ and suddenly decide to turn his firearm on innocent victims riding the subway train, as he claims in his sentencing submission.”

James is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 28.

James’ attorneys argue that “Mr. James is not evil. He is very, very ill.” They said a term of 18 years exceeds James’ life expectancy and asked the judge for mercy. The shooting was “the tragic manifestation of Frank James’s inner devaluation of human life,” they wrote.

“Decades of degradation and discrimination, both real and perceived, drove him to abject apathy. He no longer appreciated life or death, his own or others,” his attorneys argued.

James, who had made a series of bizarre YouTube videos, opened fire on the crowded Manhattan-bound N subway train as it pulled into a Brooklyn station around 8:30 a.m. on April 12, 2022.

Dressed as a maintenance worker, he set off a smoke grenade and opened fire at people randomly with a Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine, according to prosecutors.

James fired 32 shots before the gun jammed.

He then fled, threw his maintenance worker vest and other clothing in a trash can, and blending in with other terrified commuters as they boarded another train, prosecutors wrote.

A day after the attack, he called a police tip line on himself and surrendered.

Phil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

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