Two years ago, James Harris Jackson, a white Army veteran, fatally stabbed a man on a dark New York City street solely because he was black.
“The racial World War starts today,” Mr. Jackson wrote in a manifesto that included an emblazoned swastika and a Crusader’s Cross. “This political terrorist attack is a formal declaration of global total war on the Negro races.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Jackson, who was about to be sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole, attempted to rewrite that history, offering an apology.
“It never should have happened, and of course, if I could do it all over again this never would have happened for sure,” Mr. Jackson said.
The relatives and friends of the man Mr. Jackson killed, Timothy Caughman, called the white supremacist’s remarks disingenuous and insulting.
Mr. Jackson, 30, pleaded guilty last month to rare state charges of murder as terrorism and murder as a hate crime. It was the first conviction of a white supremacist on terrorism charges in New York.
Justice Laura A. Ward of State Supreme Court in Manhattan issued the maximum sentenced permitted under the law, life without parole.
“You killed a man solely because he was black and hoped to incite a race war,” Justice Ward said. “There’s no excuse for your actions.”
One of Mr. Caughman’s cousins, Richard Peek, recalled a man who was the polar opposite of Mr. Jackson.
“Tim Caughman had a heart like a blanket crocheted with a grandmother’s love: huge, warm and comforting,” Mr. Peek said, reading a statement prepared by another relative. “An individual who knew life was about caring for his family and for others. He was a man of modest means who was rich with experiences, knowledge and love.”
Mr. Jackson tapped his foot nonchalantly on the floor as Mr. Peek spoke.
Mr. Jackson’s lawyer, Frederick L. Sosinsky, said his client’s “lost soul and broken spirit permitted him to act as he never acted before.”
On St. Patrick’s Day in 2017, Mr. Jackson boarded a bus in Washington, D.C., and rode it to New York City where he believed his attack would receive the most media attention. He spent three days hunting victims.
At about 11:15 p.m. on March 20, Mr. Jackson spotted Mr. Caughman, 66, rummaging through trash on West 36th Street near Ninth Avenue. Mr. Caughman was an avid recycler who lived nearby in a room at the Barbour Hotel, which now houses formerly homeless people transitioning to permanent housing.
Mr. Jackson stabbed Mr. Caughman several times, attacking him from behind and striking several of his organs, prosecutors said. Mr. Caughman walked to a police station on West 35th Street, where officers summoned an ambulance. He died at Bellevue Hospital.
Mr. Jackson turned himself in the next day at a police substation in Times Square.
“This isn’t a regular murder case,” the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., told the court as part of his request that Mr. Jackson receive the harshest punishment under law. “By targeting Mr. Caughman, he was launching an attack against all African-Americans.”
The judge’s sentence brought Mr. Caughman’s family and friends little solace.
“We’ll never be able to share another family moment with Timothy,” Mr. Peek said. “We’ll never get to say goodbye to our loved one. We’ll never know how much he truly suffered, or how alone he felt in his last moments. That is our life sentence.”