Frank James, the accused perpetrator of the April mass shooting on a crowded N train in Sunset Park, failed to appear for a scheduled court appearance on Wednesday afternoon, leading the judge overseeing his case to order the US Marshals to retrieve him from custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
James, 63, faces federal charges that include terrorism and acts of violence against a mass transportation system in connection to the mass shooting at the 36th Street subway station on April 12, which resulted in injuries to 29 straphangers, including 10 by gunshot wounds. He pleaded not guilty to these charges on May 13.
Judge William Kuntz, the senior District Court judge overseeing the case, was angered by James’ no-show and ordered the US Marshals to head to MDC to retrieve him.
“This isn’t a high school prom invitation, this is an order of the court to be here,” said Judge William Kuntz, who presided over the hearing on Wednesday.
The judge ordered Marshals to use “all necessary force” to bring James before the judge.
“This is a question of a defendant who willfully refused to appear. I’m not tolerating that,” said Kuntz. “This is not a dress rehearsal, this is real life.”
James ultimately did arrive in the courtroom about two hours after his scheduled status conference, and his lawyers with the Federal Defenders said that he is suffering from unspecified health issues and was not feeling well on Wednesday, leading him to decline to leave his cell.
After the Marshals arrived at his cell to retrieve him, James’ lawyers said he cooperated with them and did not need to be forced from his cell. He apologized to the judge, who accepted his contrition, and said such an incident would not happen again.
James’ lawyers also attempted to postpone the beginning of his trial by two months from its scheduled Feb. 27, 2023 start date, to wait for sentencing guidelines to be determined from another case of mass violence in the subway system, that of a bomb being set off at the Times Square subway station in 2017.
Federal Defenders believe that the “sentencing exposure” determinations made in that case, especially maximum sentences, are relevant to their own representation of James, specifically whether they advise him to plea or go to trial. Kuntz denied the request, and the trial remains set for late February.