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Accused Brooklyn subway shooter's attorneys say FBI illegally collected evidence

Frank R. James
Posted at 4:05 PM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 18:17:11-04

BROOKLYN, NY — Lawyers representing the man accused of committing a mass shooting on a subway train in Brooklyn say FBI agents entered his jail cell, questioned him, took swabs of his DNA, and directed him to sign certain documents.

Attorneys are now asking for the evidence obtained to be tossed.

Prosecutors say 62-year-old Frank James fired nearly 33 rounds at passengers who had nowhere to run or hide. James was arrested in Manhattan a day after the attack, in which 10 people were wounded by gunfire.

Frank James

James' attorneys wrote a letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann of the Eastern District of New York on Thursday claiming, "FBI agents entered his cell at MDC Brooklyn, questioned him, took multiple buccal swabs of his DNA, and directed him to sign certain documents."

The letter alleges the government did not give advance notice to counsel and that it occurred 12 days after James had been appointed legal counsel. Due to this, James' attorneys claim the government risked violations of James' core constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, according to the letter.

"Using a swab on a person’s inner cheek in order to obtain DNA evidence is a search, subject to constitutional scrutiny," the letter says in part. "The FBI took these samples well outside the booking process; Mr. James had been booked for thirteen days. Any search warrant issued here may have been unreasonable, where the same agents had already taken Mr. James’s DNA on April 13, 2022. And by depriving counsel of the ability to be present to witness the procedure, as occurs routinely, they lessened Mr. James’s ability to later challenge the validity of the physical taking of the sample."

James is charged with violating a federal law that prohibits terrorist and other violent attacks against a mass transportation system. If he's convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison, according to CNN.

This photo provided by Will B Wylde, a person is aided outside a subway car in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. (Will B Wylde via AP)

Authorities say a trove of evidence connects James to the attack. His credit card and a key to a van he’d rented were found at the shooting scene.

Officers also recovered the handgun used in the shooting, which records show James purchased legally in Ohio in 2011.

James' last known address was on Milwaukee's north side.

His social media accounts tie him to Wisconsin as far back as 2019. His YouTube accounts detail half-hour-long rants about his disdain with society. One video, titled "Step One Complete," he explains a road trip he's taking from Milwaukee, starting on March 20.

In the video, he says he will be stopping in Ft. Wayne, Ind., Pittsburgh and Philadelphia before continuing his trip to New York City.

"I'm heading back into the danger zone, so to speak," James said in the video. "It's triggering a lot of negative thoughts, of course."

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