Daniel Penny pleads not guilty to manslaughter and homicide charges in subway killing of Jordan Neely

Former US Marine arraigned in Manhattan following grand jury indictment

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 28 June 2023 15:09 BST
Video: 'I knew I had to act,' Daniel Penny details NYC subway chokehold

The man accused of fatally choking a homeless New York City subway passenger has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, two weeks after a grand jury recommended charges against him.

Daniel Penny was arraigned in Manhattan criminal court on 28 June for the killing of Jordan Neely, who was pinned to the floor of a subway car in a fatal chokehold last month.

The indictment and arraignment are procedural steps that allow the case against the 24-year-old former US Marine to move forward. He was previously arraigned on a charge of second-degree manslaughter from Manhattan prosecutors last month after the city’s chief medical examiner ruled Neely’s death was a homicide. He did not enter a plea during that appearance.

Mr Penny’s next court appearance is scheduled for 25 October. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

The case surrounding Neely’s death, which was recorded on a cell phone and shared widely, has sparked widespread debate, high-profile political commentary and protests traversing issues of race, criminal justice, and urgently needed care for homeless and mentally ill New Yorkers.

It has also captured the volatility of sensational media coverage around New York City and other Democratic-led cities, while Mr Penny has been hailed as a hero by right-wing personalities in claims that echo across social media and news outlets.

An online fundraising campaign for Mr Penny’s legal defence on GiveSendGo, a crowd-funding website created in response to GoFundMe removing far-right campaigns that violated its terms of service, has collected nearly $3m.

Mr Penny also has defended his actions in interviews with Fox News and The New York Post.

Witnesses stated that Neely, who was experiencing homelessness and a mental health crisis in the days and months leading up to his death, walked into the train car loudly complaining of hunger and thirst on a Manhattan F train on 1 May, yelled to passengers that he was not afraid to go to jail or die, then threw his jacket to the ground before Mr Penny grabbed him from behind and wrestled him to the ground.

Neely did not physically attack or specifically threaten anyone on the train that day, according to law enforcement.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass described the events similarly in a statement in Manhattan Criminal Court on 12 May.

In a video statement released earlier this month, Mr Penny claimed that Neely repeatedly stated “I’m gonna kill you” on the train.

Summaries of Mr Penny’s statements to police immediately following the incident do not include any claims that Neely made death threats, documents from Manhattan prosecutors show.

According to court filings released on 28 June, Mr Penny poke to five police officers inside the subway station and then made a videotaped statement to two detectives at a nearby police precinct.

“The guy came in, he threw s***, he’s like, ‘I’m ready to go to prison for life, I’m ready to die, I’m ready to die,’ and I was standing behind him,” Mr Penny told an officer, according to court filings. “I think I might have just put him in a choke, put him down. We just went to the ground. He was trying to roll up, I had him pretty good.”

In a statement following his indictment, Mr Penny’s attorney Steven Raiser said that the legal team is “confident that when a trial jury is tasked with weighing the evidence, they will find Daniel Penny’s actions on that train were fully justified.”

Thomas Kenniff, who also is representing Mr Penny, said his client “saw a genuine threat and took action to protect the lives of others.”

Attorneys for Neely’s family said in a statement following the indictment that the grand jury’s decision “tells our city and our nation that ‘no one is above the law’ no matter how much money they raise, no matter what affiliations they claim, and no matter what distorted stories they tell in interviews.”

“Any reasonable person knows choking someone for that long will kill them. Daniel Penny did not have the right to be the judge, jury and executioner,” they added.

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