Daniel Penny, the ex-Marine caught on video placing Jordan Neely in a deadly chokehold aboard a Manhattan subway train, was released on $100,000 bond Friday after surrendering to police.
The 24-year-old defendant arrived in handcuffs for his first court appearance around 12:05 p.m., led into the courtroom from a holding pen. He was ordered to surrender his passport and cannot leave New York without permission.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said prosecutors reviewed video footage and interviewed several eyewitnesses, including responding officers, before a charge of second-degree manslaughter was brought.
“The defendant approached Mr. Neely from behind and placed him in a chokehold, taking him down to the ground,” the prosecutor said. “... At some point, Mr. Neely stopped moving. The defendant continued the chokehold for several minutes.”
He added that the white defendant remained in the subway station voluntarily to answer questions about the lethal encounter with the Black man, and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg weighed in after the hearing.
“Jordan Neely should still be alive today, and my thoughts continue to be with his family and loved ones as they mourn his loss during this extremely painful time,” Bragg said.
Penny arrived earlier Friday at the Fifth Precinct stationhouse in Chinatown to surrender in the killing of the 30-year-old homeless man in a headline-making and polarizing homicide.
“He did so voluntarily and with the sort of dignity and integrity that is characteristic of his history of service to this grateful nation,” said defense attorney Thomas Kenniff. “... He has his head held up high.”
Penny surrendered to police shortly after 8 a.m., and the defendant was led in handcuffs from the Manhattan police precinct on his way to court a short time later. He faces a sentence of five to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Penny, in a black suit and white shirt, ignored shouted questions from a horde of reporters gathered outside, with cameras lining the street as he walked into a waiting car.
“Mr. Penny not only has ties to this community, he is in fact a pillar of the community,” Kenniff said. “He has resided in the New York area his entire life, of course, for the exception … (of his) military service.”
The Marine was recorded May 1 on the floor of the F train inside the Broadway/Lafayette station with his left arm wrapped around the throat of Neely, a former subway busker who made money impersonating Michael Jackson.
The video showed Neely initially fighting back before he stopped moving. He died shortly after. Penny was questioned by police later that day but released without charges.
“We don’t want it where you can kill someone because you thought there was a possibility they could do something to you,” said Neely family attorney Donte Mills, who was joined Friday at a news conference with the victim’s father and aunt.
“There was no attack. Mr. Neely, he did not attack anyone. He did not touch anyone. He did not hit anyone. But he was choked to death and that cannot stand.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton has also called for the arrests of two other subway riders seen restraining Neely on the video.
Neely died from compression to his neck, the city medical examiner declaring his death a homicide.
Neely entered the train at the Second Avenue station ranting about being hungry and needing money, with freelance journalist and fellow straphanger Alberto Vazquez shooting video of the lethal confrontation.
“I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up,” Neely said, according to the journalist. “I don’t mind if I go to jail and (get) life in prison ... I’m ready to die.”
Neely “didn’t seem like he wanted to hurt anyone,” Vazquez wrote on Facebook. According to police, Neely yelled and threw garbage at commuters to spark the argument with Penny.
During the diatribe, Penny allegedly came up behind Neely and put him in a chokehold. Video shows the two men on the floor of the subway train with Penny’s legs wrapped around Neely and his arm firmly around his neck.
The victim became homeless after moving out of his father’s Bronx apartment four years ago. His dad said Neely, who battled mental health issues and racked up 42 arrests in the last decade, was also devastated by his mother’s 2007 murder.
Kenniff, who ran against District Attorney Alvin Bragg in 2020, had previously suggested his client acted in self-defense, an assertion rejected by Neely’s family.
The jarring video of the chokehold and the news of Neely’s death prompted angry reactions from New Yorkers and local politicians.
Hundreds of protesters and police faced off during marches and vigils throughout the week after the killing.
More than a dozen protesters, and a photojournalist, were arrested at various protests across Manhattan. Racial justice activists questioned why Penny was not arrested immediately for the death of Neely.
They chanted “Justice for Jordan Neely” and other slogans.
Demonstrators climbed onto the rail bed of the busy Second Avenue station, blocking train traffic and risking arrest and electrocution.
Mayor Adams initially cautioned patience and asked the public to allow the authorities to investigate before releasing a Wednesday statement.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened here,” the mayor said. “However, we do know that there were serious mental health issues in play here, which is why our administration has made record investments in providing care to those who need it and getting people of the streets and the subways, and out of dangerous situations.”
Penny joined the Marines in 2017 and left four years later with the rank of sergeant. During his tour of duty he received many accolades including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
He served in the Mediterranean and his last assignment was in Camp LeJeune, N.C., Marine Corps officials said.
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