Alleged NY Subway Shooter Was Once Convicted for ‘Terroristic Threats’

The alleged gunman was convicted of the crime in New Jersey in the mid-1990s, according to court documents obtained by VICE News.
​An image of the alleged gunman, released by the NYPD.
An image of the alleged gunman, released by the NYPD. 

The man arrested for the New York City subway shooting was once convicted of making “terroristic threats” to either hurt or kill someone else over two decades ago. 

Court documents obtained by VICE News show that Frank James, 62, was charged with two counts of making terroristic threats in New Jersey, where he lived at the time, in the mid-1990s. The records show a guilty verdict for threatening to “kill or seriously injure” an unnamed party, “with the purpose of terrorizing them,” in connection with an incident in 1995. He was found not guilty on a second count from 1996 that accused him of making threats with the goal of terrorizing and causing the “evacuation of a building.” 

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James was arrested on Wednesday by officials in Manhattan in relation to the Tuesday shooting, which left 29 injured, including 10 people who were shot.

Officials announced Wednesday that James has a lengthy rap sheet of previous arrests for a variety of offenses in New York and New Jersey. 

“His arrest history in New York is nine prior arrests dating from 1992 to 1998,” New York City Chief of Detectives James Essig told reporters. “Those include possession of burglary tools, four times; criminal sex act; theft of service, two times. He was arrested on a New Jersey warrant. He also has a criminal tampering [arrest]. He has three arrests in New Jersey: In 1991, in 1992, and 2007. They are for trespass, larceny, and disorderly conduct.” 

What became of those arrests was not immediately clear.

He was sentenced to one year of probation in 1997 for the previous conviction. According to the documents in the case, the judge in Essex County, New Jersey, gave him that light sentence on the basis that he had previously led a relatively law-abiding life, and that the specific circumstances of the incident led him to engage in the criminal activity at that time. Based on his character, the judge concluded he was unlikely to commit another similar offense, and believed he would respond well to probation, according to the documents.

His sentence also barred him from contact with his “victims,” who were not named, as well as any personnel from an unnamed “plant.” 

The exact circumstances of the offense remain unclear. James was assigned a public defender in the case named Ed Peranio, who told VICE News on Wednesday that he doesn’t specifically remember the details of the incident. 

Peranio, now retired, cautioned that in his view, the offense amounted to making an angry threat, and doesn’t imply that James committed an act of terrorism at the time, in the way that the term is often understood today. 

“Making a ‘terroristic threat’ doesn’t mean you’re Osama bin Laden. It means you threatened somebody,” said Peranio, who spent most of his career working in the local public defender’s office, including approximately seven years as the head of the office’s homicide squad. “You can’t go around scaring the shit out of people, but you’re not going to go to jail for it, either. You’ll go to anger management a lot of times, that kind of thing.” 

This is a developing story.