New York subway shooter Frank James pleads guilty to terrorism charges

Attack that injured 23 people was one of the most violent in city's transit system history

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The man who set off smoke bombs on a crowded New York subway train before shooting 10 people last April in one of the most violent attacks on the city's transit system pleaded guilty on Tuesday to terrorism and weapons charges.

Frank James appeared in US District Court in Brooklyn to change his plea after his lawyers requested the hearing last month. He had initially pleaded not guilty in May to 10 counts of committing a terrorist attack and other violence against a mass transport system — one count for each person shot — and using a firearm during a crime of violence.

A total of 23 people were injured in the assault during the morning rush hour on April 12 on a Manhattan-bound N train at a station in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighbourhood. No one was killed.

It was some of the worst violence involving the US' largest subway system, which is more than a century old.

In a letter to the court last week, US prosecutors said that if James demonstrates that he accepts responsibility for the crime, a prison sentence of 32 to 37 years would be appropriate. If not, he could face 40 years to life.

Police apprehended James in Manhattan's East Village neighbourhood 30 hours after the attack, following a massive manhunt. Bystanders spotted the man and posted pictures of him to social media.

The New York Police Department said they had initially linked James to the assault after finding keys to a rented U-Haul van left at the crime scene.

James, a native of the city's Bronx borough with recent addresses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, had nine prior arrests in New York and three in New Jersey, police said.

He is being held at the federal Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn.

Less than two months after James's attack, a man was arrested in the fatal, unprovoked shooting of a man on a subway car crossing the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn into Manhattan.

In June, another man was arrested on suspicion of pushing a woman on to the tracks of a subway station in the Bronx.

Updated: January 03, 2023, 9:14 PM