An online fundraiser has collected more than $2.4 million in donations to pay the legal expenses for Daniel Penny, a Marine veteran charged with manslaughter for the death of Jordan Neely, an unhoused man, in a widely publicized incident aboard a New York City subway train.
The money will pay attorneys’ fees for Penny’s current criminal case as well as any civil lawsuits that he may face in the future, according to the fundraiser, which is managed by the Raiser & Kenniff law firm in New York.
Penny’s case has become a cause célèbre for many prominent conservatives, including Vivek Ramaswamy, who is seeking the Republican party’s nomination to run as a presidential candidate in 2024. A spokeswoman for Ramaswamy confirmed he donated $10,000 to Penny’s legal defense fund.
The musician Kid Rock also donated $5,000 to Penny’s legal defense fund and wrote a message on the fundraising website: “Mr. Penny is a hero.”
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Penny is currently free on $100,000 bail. He faces up to 15 in years in prison if he is convicted of second-degree manslaughter, a felony, New York City Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said at Penny’s May 12 arraignment.
Several witnesses told authorities that Neely made threats and scared passengers after boarding the subway on May 1 in Manhattan, Steinglass said.
Freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez told the Washington Post that Neely began shouting he needed food and water after he boarded the subway.
“I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up,” Neely allegedly screamed at passengers, Vazquez recalled. “I don’t mind going to jail and getting life in prison. I’m ready to die.”
Penny allegedly came up behind Neely and placed him in a chokehold for several minutes while two other men helped restrain Neely, Steinglass said during Penny’s court appearance. The Marine veteran allegedly continued to keep Neely in a chokehold after Neely had stopped moving. Police found Neely unresponsive and after trying to revive him, they took Neely to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
A roughly four-minute video of the incident shows Penny holding Neely in a chokehold as two other men help hold him down. Neely first tries to wrestle free, but after roughly two minutes he stops kicking. Penny lets him go about a minute later.
Prosecutors decided to charge Penny in connection with Neely’s death after reviewing video photographs of the incident, talking to witnesses, and talking to the medical examiner’s office, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a May 12 statement.
“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.
On May 11, Penny’s attorneys issued a statement that said Penny put himself at risk to protect himself and other passengers aboard the subway.
“The unfortunate result was the unintended and unforeseen death of Mr. Neely,” the statement says. “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.”
Task & Purpose was unable to reach Penny’s attorneys on Tuesday.
Penny served in the Marine Corps from 2017 to 2021 as an 0311 Infantry Rifleman, according to his service record, which was provided to Task & Purpose. His last duty assignment was with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and he was promoted to sergeant while in the Individual Ready Reserve.
His military awards include two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the Marine Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
Neely’s death has prompted several protests in New York, including a May 6 incident in which several climbed onto subway tracks, delaying a train with more than 450 passengers aboard for about an hour.
Donte Mills, an attorney representing Neely’s family, told reporters on May 12 that Penny’s actions aboard the subway train were uncalled for under the circumstances.
“There was no attack,” Mills said at the news conference. “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.”
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