Former US Marine charged with manslaughter in NYC subway choking death

 Former US Marine charged with manslaughter in NYC subway choking death

By Luc Cohen

May 12 (Reuters) - A former U.S. Marine sergeant who killed a homeless man by putting him in a chokehold on the New York City subway was charged with manslaughter on Friday in a Manhattan criminal court, hours after he surrendered to police.

A viral video showed Daniel Penny putting 30-year-old Jordan Neely in a chokehold on May 1 while they rode on an F train in Manhattan. Neely died from a compression of the neck, the medical examiner said, but Penny's lawyers said their client did not mean to kill him.

According to witnesses, Neely, who was known to impersonate Michael Jackson in the subway system, was complaining loudly about being hungry and saying he was ready to die when Penny came up behind him and gripped him around the neck. Penny, 24, restrained him on the floor of the subway car until Neely appeared to stop moving. The man was later declared dead.

Penny was arraigned on one count of second-degree manslaughter in Manhattan Criminal Court, where Judge Kevin McGrath set his bond at $100,000 and ordered him to surrender his passport. He was released on bond and is due back in court on July 17.

Penny was handcuffed when he entered the room and was not in handcuffs when he exited after the brief hearing.

"Mr. Penny not only has ties to this community, he has in fact been a pillar of the community," his lawyer Thomas Kenniff said during the hearing.


A bystander's video of the killing drew national attention and there were protests by those who said prosecutors delayed in charging Penny, who is white with killing Neely, a Black man. Some said the incident amounted to a "lynching" and an example of "white vigilantism" against people of color.

"At some point, Mr. Neely stopped moving. The defendant continued to hold Mr. Neely…and then released him," Joshua Steinglass, a prosecutor with the Manhattan district attorney's office, said during the hearing. He added that Penny continued to hold Neely after the train arrived at the next stop.

Penny's attorneys told the court that he grew up in the New York City area before serving four years in the Marine Corps. After Penny was honorably discharged, he pursued a bachelor's degree in architecture in New York City.

The U.S. Marine Corps said in a written statement on Friday that Penny served between 2017 and 2021, attaining the rank of sergeant. He received several awards, including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

In an earlier statement from his legal team, Penny expressed "condolences to those close to Mr. Neely." The statement alleged that Neely had aggressively threatened passengers riding in the subway car.

"Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death," the statement said.

An attorney for Neely's family said in a statement on Monday that Penny's actions on the train and his words show that "he needs to be in prison."

The video of Neely's death revived a debate among New Yorkers about crime in the subway and how to deal with a growing number of homeless people in the city.

A spate of attacks on train passengers last year, particularly Asian Americans, prompted New York City Mayor Eric Adams to increase police patrols and expand outreach to the mentally ill in the subway system, citing rising homelessness in the wake of the pandemic.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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