The white man who pleaded guilty in the stabbing death of a black man in a random sword attack on a Manhattan street nearly two years ago has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
James Jackson’s guilty plea last month marked the first-ever conviction of a white supremacist on terrorism charges in New York state history, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said.
Jackson’s sentence was the maximum penalty he could have received under New York law, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Wednesday.
“American law enforcement has been slow to acknowledge the rise and scope of white nationalism, and this has emboldened actors like the defendant,” Vance said in a statement. “We have too often treated these crimes as something less than terrorism.”
“The court today has an opportunity to declare that violent white nationalism will not be normalized and that its perpetrators will be sentenced like the terrorists that they are,” he added.
Given a chance to speak during his sentencing, Jackson said he wanted to apologize for “this horrible and unnecessary tragedy.”
“It never should have happened,” he added. “And if I could to it all over again, this never would have happened, for sure.”
State Supreme Court Justice Laura Ward kept her remarks brief.
“You killed a man solely because he was black,” she said. “And there is no excuse for your actions.”
Richard Peek, a cousin of the victim who spoke for the family, read aloud an “open letter to a murderer” in court, saying “one cruel man’s intolerance turned many people’s worlds upside-down.”
Jackson’s attorney, Frederick Sosinsky, said his client had marched with family members to protest racial injustice, had served honorably alongside blacks in the military, and had never committed a crime before “the worst day of his life.”
“His lost soul and broken spirit permitted him to act as he’d never acted before,” Sosinsky said, maintaining Jackson’s time in the army made him feel lost and worthless.
Caughman’s friend Carl Nimmons, however, told News 4 he felt Jackson’s apology was “insulting because I know he didn’t mean it no kind of way.”
“You can never forgive him for that, you know. He got life in prison, but Tim is gone, and we will never see him again,” Nimmons said.
“It hurts,” he added after the sentencing. “It’s justice. But it’s not enough justice.”
Nimmons and Portia Clark, another friend of Caughman’s, both said they were focused on honoring Caughman.
“We love you, Timothy, and you will always be in our hearts,” Clark said.
Jackson, who said he was bent on purging the Earth of black people, had been charged with plunging a sword into 66-year-old Timothy Caughman on a Manhattan street in 2017 simply because Caughman was black. Caughman stumbled around bleeding for some time before he collapsed and died.
Last month Jackson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in furtherance of an act of terrorism, second-degree murder as a crime of terrorism, second-degree murder as a hate crime and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, the DA’s office said.
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’s friend Portia Clark on Wednesday told News 4 she was “grateful that [Jackson] pleaded guilty to all the charges.”
Jackson had been expected to plead earlier in connection with the crime, but he asked it be briefly put off because he had taken pain medication.
Prosecutors say Jackson traveled from Baltimore to New York in March 2017 and stalked several black men before attacking Caughman at random.
Jackson later told police the slaying had been practice for further assaults on black people.
In a videotaped confession played at a pretrial hearing in court in the fall, Jackson told investigators blacks were “inferior” and should be “exterminated.”
Jackson previously plead not guilty to murder as a hate crime and as an act of terrorism in the death of Caughman. His lawyer said at that time he was looking into whether an insanity defense would be appropriate.
Authorities previously said Jackson admitted killing the Caughman at random as part of a plan to kill black men in New York City. Caughman was stooped over a pile of trash when he was attacked from behind with a sword.
Caughman, who was remembered as a gentleman and a good neighbor, was alone and collecting bottles for recycling when he was attacked. He staggered, bleeding, into a police station and later died at a hospital.
Jackson is from Baltimore and a veteran who served in Afghanistan. Family friends had said the allegations were out of line with how he was raised, in a tolerant and liberal middle-class family.