Brooklyn subway shooting suspect Frank James was charged for 'terroristic threats' in 90s, court official says

Frank R. James was charged in the 1990s with two counts of terroristic threats, but went to trial and was ultimately convicted of harassment,

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Accused Brooklyn subway shooter Frank James was found guilty of harassment stemming from allegations he made terroristic threats in New Jersey in the 1990s, a court official confirmed to Fox News Digital on Wednesday.

James, 62, "was charged with two counts of terroristic threats for an incident that occurred in the mid-1990s" in New Jersey, confirmed Katherine Carter, a spokesperson for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.  But at trial in Essex County Superior Court, he was "was found guilty of harassment and sentenced to one year probation," Carter said. 

The spokesperson later wrote in an email that the two terroristic threat charges were third-degree offenses under New Jersey law, and were therefore felonies. But James was convicted of harassment, which is "a disorderly persons" offense, and is not a felony.

A look at the penal codes provided by Carter for each charge defines one of the terroristic threat counts, 2c:12-3b, as pertaining to a person who "threatens to kill another with the purpose to put him in imminent fear of death under circumstances reasonably causing the victim to believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood that it will be carried out."

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The second count, 2c:12-3a, is defined by New Jersey statute as applying to someone guilty of threatening "to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another or to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience."

But James was instead convicted of harassment, a disorderly persons offense, penal code 2c:33-4, the spokesperson said. The penal code describes how someone is guilty of such an offense if he or she makes or causes "communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm," behaves in an alarming way or repeatedly acts in a way to "seriously annoy" another person. The charge also applies to someone who subjects someone else" to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so," the penal code states. 

New York City Police, left, and law enforcement officials lead subway shooting suspect Frank R. James, 62, center, away from a police station, in New York, Wednesday, April 13, 2022. 

New York City Police, left, and law enforcement officials lead subway shooting suspect Frank R. James, 62, center, away from a police station, in New York, Wednesday, April 13, 2022.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The criminal complaint pertaining to the case was not immediately available, and Fox News Digital has filed a public records request for the document.  

A federal public defender appointed to represent James did not respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment on Wednesday. 

James, who has been linked to New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio, is now being charged federally for allegedly opening fire on a busy Brooklyn subway train during morning rush hour on Tuesday. Officials say he injured 29 people, including 10 who suffered gunshot wounds. 

"Mr. James is now facing a federal charge for his actions: A terrorist attack on mass transit," said Michael J. Driscoll, assistant director in charge of the New York Field Office of the FBI, during a Wednesday press conference. 

But James is no stranger to the criminal justice system. 

New York Police Department Chief of Detectives James Essig said Wednesday that James' arrest history includes nine prior arrests in New York from 1992 and 1998, including for a criminal sex act, four instances of possession of burglary tools and two instances of theft of service. 

He was previously picked up on a New Jersey warrant and has an arrest history for criminal tampering, Essig said. James was also arrested at least three times in New Jersey in 1991, 1992 and 2007, for trespassing, larceny and disorderly conduct, Essig said.

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As for the other states, state criminal searches for Pennsylvania and Wisconsin did not immediately return any records for James. Criminal records searches were pending in New Jersey and in the city of Philadelphia. 

James is accused of injuring 29 people in a Sunset Park, Brooklyn, subway station around 8:25 a.m. Tuesday morning. James was allegedly aboard a Manhattan-bound N train during morning rush-hour when he placed a gas mask on his face, activated a smoke canister and opened fire inside the train and on the platform of the 36th Street subway station. 

He fired his gun at least 33 times, officials have said. 

Authorities said James rented a U-Haul van from a Philadelphia store on Monday and made his way into Brooklyn on Tuesday morning, according to the federal criminal complaint. 

READ THE FULL CRIMINAL COMPLAINT FOR FRANK R. JAMES HERE:
 

"New York City Police Department video surveillance cameras recorded the U-Haul Vehicle driving over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at approximately 4:11 a.m. on April 12, 2022, and entering Brooklyn, New York," states the document, released Thursday. "The U-Haul Vehicle crossed state lines from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and then to New York."

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At approximately 6:12 a.m. on Tuesday, a surveillance camera located at West 7th Street and Kings Highway in Gravesend, Brooklyn, "recorded an individual wearing a yellow hard hat, orange working jacket with reflective tape, carrying a backpack in his right hand and dragging a rolling bag in his left hand, leaving the U-Haul Vehicle on foot," the complaint states. 

He then entered a nearby subway station and rode the train an estimated eight stops before unleashing his attack, NYPD officials said Tuesday. 

Authorities said James then boarded a different subway after the attack and fled from the area. According to the complaint, authorities discovered two bags and the reflective jacket among items that were left behind at the scene.

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"The first bag contained, among other items, a firearm, a plastic container containing gasoline, a torch, a U-Haul key, and multiple bank cards," the document states. "The second bag contained fireworks, which are black powder-filled explosives."

A general manager at the U-Haul location did not respond to Fox News Digital’s multiple requests for information. John B. DeVito, special agent in charge of the ATF's New York Field Office, said James acquired the gun he had used "from a federal firearms licensee in Ohio in 2011."

The criminal complaint further describes how James also left behind a debit card under his name.

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The document adds: "Records provided by U-Haul revealed that, on April 11, 2022, at approximately 2:03 p.m., an individual named ‘Frank James' rented from U-Haul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a white Chevrolet Express Model G2500 Cargo Van with Arizona plates … U-Haul records reflected that the individual reserved and prepaid for the rental on or about April 6, 2022."

Fox News' Rebecca Rosenberg contributed to this report.