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Man charged in Brooklyn subway shooting pleads not guilty

New York police and law enforcement officials lead Frank James away from a police station in New York last month. (Seth Wenig/AP)
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NEW YORK — Frank James, the man accused of opening fire inside a subway car in Brooklyn last month and eluding police for nearly 30 hours afterward, pleaded not guilty Friday to terrorism and firearms charges.

Appearing in federal court in Brooklyn, James, 62, appeared nonchalant as U.S. District Judge William F. Kuntz peppered him with a standard set of questions about his educational background and his state of mind. Wearing khaki-colored jail garb and escorted by U.S. marshals, he shuffled to his seat at the defense table in the ceremonial courtroom, where he took a seat next to his attorney. Throughout the hearing, his paper mask sat below his nose.

When the judge asked James how he was doing, he shrugged and told Kuntz he was “pretty good.”

James is charged with committing a terrorist attack on a mass transit system and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence for the shooting that left ten people, ranging in age from 16 to 60, wounded, though none killed. The charges could land James a possible life sentence.

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The judge ordered that he remain held without bond at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn; his next court date is scheduled for July 25.

Authorities have not alleged what they think motivated James to set off smoke bombs and fire a barrage of bullets at morning commuters on a train bound for Manhattan as it pulled into a station in Sunset Park on April 12. The public picture that has emerged of him has come largely from videos he apparently posted online, in which he made bigoted statements, delved into baseless claims and spoke ominously about committing violence. He had been arrested many times previously, mostly for low-level crimes.

Disturbing images emerged on social media of the aftermath of the attack. As the train doors opened at the station, bloodied and panicked people spilled out of the subway car and onto the platform, and a cloud of smoke leaked out, the footage showed. Officials say they believe James’s 9mm Glock pistol jammed, cutting short the terrifying episode and possibly sparing lives.

James, meanwhile, slipped out of the station, leaving behind personal belongings that helped authorities identify and capture him after a nearly 30-hour manhunt. Several people called authorities after he was spotted in the East Village — around the time James called police himself to notify them of his whereabouts, officials have said.

A $50,000 Crime Stoppers reward was expected to be split among the callers, excluding James.