ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The gunman who killed six and wounded 19 people on a New York commuter train two decades ago tried to incite a deadly riot at an upstate prison, a state court concluded Thursday.
The four Appellate Division justices upheld prison disciplinary charges against Colin Ferguson. They wrote that videotape, testimony and a prison misbehavior report provided “substantial evidence” that he threatened violence and conspired to riot.
Ferguson boarded a Long Island Rail Road train in Queens on Dec. 7, 1993, fired methodically over several minutes, reloading at least once, before he was tackled by passengers. Now 56, he’s at Upstate Correctional Facility near the Canadian border and eligible for parole in 295 years from convictions for murder, attempted murder and weapon possession.
A corrections officer reported hearing him encouraging others to riot and use weapons to kill guards on Sept. 11, 2011, at Attica prison in western New York. He was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing and appealed. His initial penalty was 18 months’ confinement in special housing and loss of privileges, with confinement later cut in half.
The court said Ferguson’s denial that he made any threatening remarks created a credibility issue for the hearing officer to resolve. The justices rejected his claims that the hearing officer was biased and that the hearing transcript was altered.
Ferguson represented himself in the appeal and at trial, where he argued that he was framed. Ferguson, who is black, said the shooter was a white man who stole his gun from his bag while he slept.
During the trial, police testified that Ferguson was carrying handwritten notes the night of the shooting that expressed his hatred of whites and Asians, blamed whites for sabotaging his life and announced that the LIRR would be his “venue” for revenge. All but one of his victims was white or Asian.
Ferguson fired defense attorneys William Kunstler and Ron Kuby after rejecting the lawyers’ efforts at mounting a “black rage” insanity defense — claiming racial persecution triggered the violence. He said he would rather be convicted than judged insane.
“Colin Ferguson by all accounts was a delusional paranoid … and he was found legally responsible for the murders,” Kuby said Thursday. “Unfortunately prisons have become the place where the mentally ill end up being warehoused.”