James Jackson admitted to fatally stabbing 66-year-old Timothy Caughman in March 2017 after stalking a number of black men in New York City.
Jackson, who is white, told police he traveled from Baltimore to carry out the attack because New York is the media capital of the world. He said the slaying was intended to be practice for further assaults on black people.
Jackson, 30, faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced Feb. 13 after pleading guilty to six counts, including murder and a hate crime charge.
He spoke in a calm and collected manner as Judge Laura Ward questioned him in Manhattan criminal court, saying “that’s true” when asked whether he was armed with a sword and two knives when he began hunting black people on the streets of Midtown.
The plea came several weeks after Ward ruled that jurors would hear Jackson’s detailed confession if the case had gone to trial. Jackson’s attorneys said he pleaded guilty against their advice, aware he would face a mandatory life sentence.
Caughman, who was remembered as a gentleman and a good neighbor, was alone and collecting bottles for recycling when he was attacked from behind with a sword. He staggered, bleeding, into a police station and died at a hospital.
Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, called the plea a landmark conviction, saying it marked New York’s first prosecution under the state’s “murder as a crime of terrorism” statute. But he warned that it would not “reverse the alarming rise of white nationalism in America.”
“This was more than a murder case,” Vance said outside the courtroom. “This was a type of cruelty that needs to be treated with the most serious of our laws.”
Jackson is from Baltimore and a veteran who served in Afghanistan. Family friends said previously that the allegations were out of line with how he was raised, in a tolerant and liberal middle-class family.
In a 2017 jailhouse interview with the Daily News, Jackson said he intended the stabbing as “a practice run” in a mission to deter interracial relationships.
He said he would rather have killed “a young thug” or “a successful older black man with blondes … people you see in Midtown. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path.”
One of Jackson’s attorneys, Frederick Sosinsky, told the judge Wednesday that New York police improperly interviewed Jackson several weeks ago without notifying his defense lawyers. He said the officers who conducted the interview were not assigned to the case and work in the intelligence division of the police department.
Sosinsky called the interview “shocking to the conscience” and in violation of state and federal law.
It was not immediately clear why the officers questioned Jackson.
“This will not be the end of the matter as far as I’m concerned,” Sosinsky told Ward. “I will not rest until we have a very good answer as to how this could possibly happen.”
Vance, the district attorney, said he was unaware of the interview before Wednesday but told Ward “it’s not something we’d countenance.”
He declined to address Sosinky’s claim that the New York Police Department has made a “practice” of conducting such unauthorized interviews but said his office will conduct a preliminary inquiry into the matter.
Emails seeking comment on the interview were sent to the NYPD.