A man seen on video putting another man in a deadly chokehold on a New York City subway train was released on bail Friday after turning himself in to face criminal charges. Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old Marine veteran, was charged with second degree manslaughter, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Thursday.
Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old former Michael Jackson impersonator who was homeless, died after being put in a chokehold by Penny earlier this month. Attorneys for Neely’s family on Friday supported prosecutors’ decision to charge Penny, but said he should have been charged with murder, not manslaughter, and that he should have been arrested sooner.
“Daniel Penny chose, intentionally chose, a technique to use that is designed to cut off air — that’s what he chose — and he chose to continue to hold that chokehold minute after minute, second after second, until there was no life left in Jordan Neely,” Neely family attorney Lennon Edwards told reporters Friday.
if convicted of manslaughter in the second degree, Penny could face as many as 15 years in prison. During Friday’s court appearance, he didn’t enter a plea and was released on $100,000 bond. He can’t leave New York state without approval, and his next court date was scheduled for July.
Penny surrendered to authorities at a New York City police precinct shortly after 8 a.m. Friday was later led out of the precinct in handcuffs. His attorneys have said they expect him to be “fully absolved” as the case moves forward.
JORDAN NEELY’S CAUSE OF DEATH
A video lasting nearly 3 minutes shows Penny on the floor of a subway car with Neely in a chokehold on May 1. Penny was initially questioned by police and released without being charged.
“He should have been arrested on the spot,” Edwards said Friday. Donte Mills, another attorney representing Neely’s family, said Penny “absolutely” should have been charged “because he acted with indifference.”
The New York City medical examiner’s office determined that Neely died from a chokehold and ruled his death a homicide.
Witnesses told police Neely had been begging for food and acting erratically on the F-line train before Penny intervened. According to witnesses, Neely was screaming about being hungry and tired but didn’t attack anyone.
“There was no attack,” Mills told reporters. “Mr. Neely did not attack anyone, he did not touch anyone, he did not hit anyone. But he was choked to death, and that can’t stand. That can’t be what we represent.”
DANIEL PENNY’S ATTORNEYS’ STATEMENT
After charges were announced Thursday, Penny’s attorneys said he “stepped in to protect himself and his fellow New Yorkers.”
“We are confident that once all the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic incident are brought to bear, Mr. Penny will be fully absolved of any wrongdoing,” Kenniff and fellow attorney Steven Raiser said in a statement.
Last week, the attorneys said Neely was “aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and other passengers,” and that Penny and others “acted to protect themselves.”
“Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” the attorneys said.
Neely’s family said in response that the statement by Penny’s attorney amounts to an “admission of guilt,” and that “his actions on the train, and now his words, show why he needs to be in prison.”
Mills described Neely as someone who struggled with mental illness but said, “Jordan had a family. Jordan was loved. … He made other people smile.”
The case sparked days of protests by demonstrators calling for justice for Neely.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a city elected official, joined the calls for charges against Penny ahead of Thursday’s announcement.
“Jordan Neely was unjustly killed, and charges must be immediately brought against the person who killed him,” Williams told reporters this week. “To say anything else is an equivocation that will only further a narrative that devalues the life of a Black homeless man with mental health challenges and encourages an attitude of dehumanization of New Yorkers in greatest need.”
City Comptroller Brad Lander said mental health services need to be more widely available to New Yorkers. “New York City is not Gotham,” Lander told reporters. “We can’t be a city where you can choke someone to death who’s experiencing a mental health crisis.”
New York Mayor Eric Adams acknowledged that Neely’s death “devastated his family and shocked his fellow New Yorkers.” Adams also urged people not to rush to judgment.
“One thing we can say for sure: Jordan Neely did not deserve to die,” Adams said Wednesday during an address at City Hall, “and all of us must work together to do more for our brothers and sisters struggling with serious mental illness.”