Friday, September 29, 2023
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Ex-Marine surrenders to manslaughter charge for subway chokehold

The 24-year-old veteran from Long Island could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of recklessly killing a homeless subway rider.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Eleven days after he killed an unruly passenger aboard a New York City F train by putting him in a chokehold, Daniel Penny of Long Island turned himself in to law enforcement Friday morning.

Penny, 24, voluntarily surrendered at the 5th Precinct police station in Chinatown shortly after 8 a.m. Later that afternoon, Penny was arraigned in Manhattan criminal court on a charge of second-degree manslaughter, which could carry a jail term of up to 15 years.

A judge authorized Penny's release on a $100,000 partially secured bond at the conclusion of the 20-minute proceeding, and Penny walked free without entering a plea.

The terms of release on bail require Penny to pay about $6,000 now, to surrender his passport and not to leave New York without approval.

A phalanx of court officers escorted the defendant to a back exit of courthouse, wearing a black suit with no tie, and black Vans skate sneakers.

Manhattan prosecutors said they are seeking a grand jury indictment. Penny is due back in court on July 17.

Penny served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2017 to 2021 and was assigned as a rifleman to the Camp Lejeune Marine base in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He previously in West Islip in Suffolk County on Long Island.

Prosecutors said Friday that Penny currently lives in New York City, where he attended college.

Speaking about his client's self-surrender, Penny’s attorney Thomas Kenniff told reporters outside of the police station: “He did so voluntarily and with the sort of dignity and integrity that is characteristic of his history of service to this great nation."

The killing of Jordan Neely, which was captured on video, and the delay in bringing charges, stirred outrage and debates about the response to mental illness in the nation’s largest transit system. Authorities removed the body of the 30-year-old on May 1 from a train stopped in Lower Manhattan at Broadway-Lafayette, and the city’s medical examiner ruled his cause of death compression of the neck.

Four days later, Penny’s attorneys at Raiser & Kenniff asserted in a statement that Penny and other subway riders had “acted to protect themselves” in self-defense until help arrived after Neely began “aggressively threatening” Penny on the train. A freelance journalist appeared to have started filming only after Penny had Neely in a headlock. The footage shows Neely occasionally twitching, as a second passenger pinned Neely's arms while a third person held down his shoulder.

New York police officers administer CPR to Jordan Neely on the floor of a subway train on May 1, 2023, after a chokehold put on him by another passenger turned fatal. (Paul Martinka via AP)

Before his death, Neely was a fixture in the Times Square transit hub, known for his precise Michael Jackson impression. Neely struggled in recent years with homelessness and deteriorating mental illness, friends said. He had been arrested several times, and had recently pleaded guilty to assaulting a 67-year-old woman in 2021 as she left a subway station.

After pleading guilty, he missed a court date, leading to a warrant for his arrest that was still active at the time of his death. His death has divided some in New York and beyond, triggering intense debates and protests.

Penny's bail was handled by prominent New York bail bondsman Ira Judelson, whose previous high-profile clients have included rappers DMX and Ja Rule, former head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn, comedian Katt Williams, and disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

The defense attorney Kenniff is a former prosecutor, judge advocate general (JAG), and Iraq war veteran. In 2021, Kenniff ran against current Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a Republican nominee on a platform largely opposed to the criminal justice reforms pushed by progressive Democrats in Albany in 2019.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams declined initially to make any substantial statement on Neely’s death, instead urging caution, but he was more forthright this week when he addressed the incident at closed press event that was live-streamed. "One of our own is dead, a Black man, Black like me, a man named Jordan, a name I gave my son," Adams said Wednesday. "One thing we know for sure, Jordan Neely did not deserve to die."

Left-leaning advocates described the killing as an act of racist vigilantism, invoking comparisons to both Kyle Rittenhouse,  who was acquitted in 2021 for killing two people and injured a third with an AR-15 during a chaotic Kenosha, Wisconsin; and the infamous New York City subway shooting carried out by white gunman Bernhard Goetz against four Black teenagers in 1984.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter that Neely had been “murdered,” and Brad Lander, the Democratic city comptroller, disparaged Neely’s attacker as a “vigilante.”

"We can't be a city where you can choke someone to death as experiencing a mental health crisis without any consequence," Lander said at a press conference Wednesday.

Jawanza Williams, director of organizing at VOCAL-NY, said city and state Democrat leadership has Neely's blood on their hands for blocking progressive legislation at the state level and pushing an austerity budget at the city level with across-the-board cuts while funneling billions of dollars in funding to the NYPD.

"The murder of Jordan Neely is a direct result of the sustained political, systemic abandonment and dehumanization of people experiencing homelessness and mental health complexities, fueled by press coverage that clearly influences policies and emboldens vigilantes," Williams wrote. "People have been deputized by Mayor Adams’ and Governor Hochul’s hyper-conservative, fear-mongering rhetoric and now a man has been lynched."

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Categories / Criminal, Regional

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