Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old Marine veteran who choked a homeless man to death on the New York City subway earlier this month, will officially face a charge of manslaughter in the second degree over the incident, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Penny is expected to surrender himself to authorities on Friday, according to a spokesman for Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg.
Penny will be charged in the death of Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old unhoused man who boarded the F Train on May 1 and began shouting at passengers that he needed food and water. Witnesses stated that Penny grabbed Neely and put him in a chokehold for nearly 15 minutes while two unidentified passengers held the latter’s arms down.
The New York City medical examiner had previously ruled that Neely’s death was a homicide caused by compression of the neck.
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Penny joined the Marine Corps in 2017 as a rifleman and separated in 2021 at the rank of sergeant, according to his service record. His last duty assignment was with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and he previously deployed with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from 2017 to 2019.
Known to New York subway passengers for his Michael Jackson impersonation, Neely was also known to police for dozens of charges ranging from disorderly conduct to assault in the last decade, past incidents that Penny’s lawyers invoked in a statement regarding their client.
Neely “Had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness,” his attorneys said in the May 5th statement. “When [Neely] began aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and the other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect themselves, until help arrived.”
Neely’s family responded in a statement the following Monday decrying Penny’s defense as “character assassination, and a clear example of why he believed he was entitled to take Jordan’s life.”
“The truth is, he knew nothing about Jordan’s history when he intentionally wrapped his arms around Jordan’s neck, and squeed and kept squeezing,” the family said in a May 8th statement.
Video of the killing captured by witnesses sparked protests across New York City regarding the treatment of the city’s homeless population, of which there are more than 70,000.
Neely “was robbed of his life in a brutal way by someone who decided that they were judge, jury and executioner on the spot,” a family lawyer told the New York Times in an interview. “We can’t have vigilantes, and we can’t have people taking the law into their own hands.”
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