NEW YORK — Accused subway shooter Frank James tried to play dumb and claim he was just another passenger on the train when officers and FBI agents questioned him after his arrest, according to a new court filing in the Eastern District of New York.
The questioning came after James, 63, was arrested for boarding a rush-hour train on April 12, setting off a smoke bomb and firing a gun 33 times as the train approached the 36th Street station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Ten people were hit, but miraculously, no one died.
A FBI agent asked James if he had weapons anywhere else in the city or something that could put the city in harm’s way or “that a little kid can grab and hurt someone (with)” prosecutors said, according to Monday’s filing.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about at all,” James responded. “See, I was on the train. I was on the train.”
James is charged with committing a terrorist attack on a mass transit system and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, and faces a trial starting Feb. 27, 2023.
James’ defense team is asking the judge to toss out James’ statements to the police, contending that he repeatedly asked for a lawyer after his arrest, along with statements from train victims who described the attacker’s appearance.
Prosecutors, however, argue the “narrow” line of questioning was solely for the purpose of public safety and that they do not plan to submit any of James’ statements made after he was read his Miranda rights — and that the first four minutes of his interview are enough to secure a guilty verdict.
They also argued James should stand trial in the borough where he’s accused of shooting up the rush-hour train.
James last month asked Brooklyn federal Court Judge William Kuntz to change his trial venue to Chicago or another city, arguing that he can’t get a fair shake in the Big Apple because of the intense media coverage of the shooting.
James’ Federal Defenders lawyers said in a motion that the nonstop media coverage, a mass text to New Yorkers naming him as a suspect and a news conference in which Mayor Eric Adams repeatedly proclaimed, “We got him,” makes it impossible for their client to get impartial jurors.
The Federal Defenders hired a D.C.-based polling firm to survey 400 eligible jurors in the Brooklyn Federal Court jurisdiction, and another 400 in Chicago. The defense contends 57% of people in the Brooklyn jury pool already believe James is guilty, compared to 38% of those surveyed in Chicago.
His defense team is also looking to have the charges against him tossed, arguing that federal terrorism law “limits its reach to acts committed on specified property used to support the operation of the subways, which does not include subway cars themselves.”
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