White supremacist James Jackson was sentenced to life in prison without parole in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday after saying he was sorry for slaughtering Timothy Caughman with a Roman-style sword in an effort to trigger a worldwide race war.
“I just wanted to apologize to everyone who has been affected by this horrible and unnecessary tragedy,” Jackson told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laura Ward. “It never should have happened, and if I could do it all over again it never would happen, for sure.”
Jackson, 30, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder and second-degree murder as an act of terrorism for the slaying of Caughman, 66, an African-American, on Ninth Avenue in midtown in March 2017. He is currently being held in a Suffolk County jail.
In a confession, the Army veteran told police he thought blacks were inferior, and he came north to New York to hunt and kill one because it was the media capital of the United States and he wanted to “inspire” other white men and make a “declaration of total war on the Negro race.”
Caughman’s last words, Jackson told police, were, “Why are you doing this, man?”
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance appeared in person at the sentencing, quoting excerpts from a not-yet-released “manifesto” found on a flash drive belonging to Jackson that was decorated at the top with a swastika and a “crusader’s cross.”
Including plans for attacks on other races, Vance said, the manifesto said, “Negroes are obviously first on the list” and “must be extinguished as soon as possible.” It also called on nations like Russia, Britain and China to take on the task of world cleansing because it was a “complex logistical task.”
Vance said he was not releasing the full manifesto to avoid aiding Jackson’s campaign but told the judge the attack on Caughman was an “explicit and frontal attack on our core values.”
Before sentence was imposed, Richard Peek, a cousin of Caughman, read a letter from his niece, whom he declined to name, that she called an “Open Letter to a Murderer” asking “what reason there could be for such heartlessness and inhumanity.”
She called Caughman a man with a heart that was “huge, warm and comforting” and said life without parole was the right sentence for Jackson.
“He crossed state lines to shove a 26-inch blade in another human’s body, someone he’d never met, repeatedly,” the letter said. “All because he was consumed with a hatred that was pointless.”
Outside court, Jackson’s lawyers said he was brought up in a decent, loving family and served honorably without incident alongside and under blacks in the Army, but a series of disappointments after he got out broke his spirit and left him feeling worthless and desperate.
“He simply could not find direction,” said lawyer Fred Sosinsky. “It’s that type of person who is most susceptible to hate and terror.”
Sosinsky said he hoped Jackson started on a “path of redemption” with his decision to plead to crimes with mandatory life sentences. “James will settle in for a lifetime of atonement and repentance,” said the lawyer.
Jackson is appealing pretrial rulings by Ward that led up to his guilty plea. Friends of Caughman said they were satisfied with the sentence, but it wouldn’t bring him back.
“I’m glad it's through, but I can never forgive him,” said Carl Nimmons, a Caughman friend from childhood. “Timothy is gone, and we’ll never see him again.”