NEW YORK (Reuters) - A white man who police said traveled to New York City to harm black people pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a charge of murder “as a crime of terrorism” for the fatal stabbing of an African-American on a Manhattan sidewalk last month.
James Jackson, 28, turned himself in to police on March 22 after authorities circulated security-camera footage of him, describing Jackson as the suspect in the killing two days earlier of 66-year-old Timothy Caughman.
Clad in a gray sweatshirt and with his arms shackled to his waist, Jackson spoke only to confirm he could not afford his own attorney and to enter his plea during his appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Jackson had told police, and would later tell reporters in an interview in jail, that he traveled to New York last month from his Baltimore home to kill multiple black men.
He hoped his planned killing spree in the heart of the country’s media capital would deter black men from dating white women, according to police and a New York Daily News account of an interview with him.
Moments before being stabbed, Caughman had been gathering bottles and cans from garbage cans to exchange at a recycling center for small change. He managed to stagger to a nearby police station before dying.
Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at Caughman’s funeral on Saturday, decrying what he called a racist murder.
Prosecutors have brought six charges against Jackson: murder as a crime of terrorism, murder in the first degree, murder as a hate crime, and three counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
If convicted of murder as a crime of terrorism, Jackson would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Jackson is due back in court on May 31. His court-appointed public defender declined to comment to reporters after Wednesday’s hearing.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown