Daniel Penny Charged With Manslaughter For Jordan Neely's Death, Released On Bail

Daniel Penny was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday on a charge of second-degree manslaughter. Jordan Neely's family are making press appearances, demanding Penny be charged.

By Gina Florio2 min read
Getty/Michael M. Santiago

On May 1, 2023, an incident on a New York City subway train sent shockwaves across the nation, leading to social unrest reminiscent of the upheaval following the death of George Floyd in 2020. The incident involved Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old former U.S. Marine, and Jordan Neely, a homeless man with a documented mental health history.

The altercation between Penny and Neely was sparked by Neely's outbursts and threats on an F train. Responding to the disturbance, Penny intervened, placing Neely in a chokehold. The incident, captured on video, showed Penny maintaining the hold until Neely ceased to move, then letting go and waiting for officials to arrive. When emergency services came on the scene, Neely was pronounced dead at the scene.

The chokehold, eerily echoing the circumstances of George Floyd's death in 2020, ignited a social and media firestorm. Activists took to the streets of New York City, demanding justice for Neely and systemic reform to prevent future such tragedies. The incident reignited the discussion around mental health support for the homeless and how civilians respond to such situations.

Daniel Penny Charged with Manslaughter for Jordan Neely's Death, Released on Bail

On May 12, 2023, Former U.S. Marine Daniel Penny, 24, surrendered to the New York City police. He was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. He appeared in court under police guard and refrained from entering a plea. Assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass noted that the charge resulted from a "thorough investigation," which included interviews with eyewitnesses, 911 callers, and responding officers.

Penny's attorneys are confident in his exoneration, arguing that Penny and others "acted to protect themselves" from Neely, who had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior due to untreated mental illness. They added that Penny "never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death."

Neely family attorney Lennon Edwards is pushing for an upgrade in charges to second-degree murder, arguing that Penny should have known the chokehold could be lethal. Donte Mills, another attorney for the Neely family, said that Penny "acted with indifference," a stance that society "can't let stand."

The Neely family lawyers are urging people to help those in distress rather than resorting to violence. They are advocating for a more compassionate approach to handling individuals with mental health issues, particularly in public spaces like the subway.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in a statement said, "Jordan Neely should still be alive today," emphasizing the need for justice in this case. The Rev. Al Sharpton also weighed in, stating that the charges against Penny are just the first step towards justice.

Neely's family is now making public appearances and talking to the press about the incident, demanding that Penny be charged and found guilty. Neely's father Andre and his aunt Mildred asked for "changes to be made so there’s not another Jordan Neely story like this.” Many people are skeptical about how much Neely's family suddenly cares about him, considering the fact that he was homeless and struggled with mental illness for many years—where was his family before?

"The family has time for Jordan Neely now that they see a bag," lawyer, author, and filmmaker Mike Cernovich tweeted.

Despite the severity of the charges, Penny was released on bond, with his attorney arguing his voluntary surrender demonstrated a lack of flight risk. Penny, who currently resides in New York City, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in architecture.

The district attorney's office decided to proceed with charges without initially going to a grand jury. However, the case will be presented to a grand jury in the coming days as prosecutors work to secure an indictment. Penny is expected to return to court on July 17. As the case unfolds, the nation watches closely, awaiting a verdict that could have significant implications for future similar incidents.

The tragic incident has also ignited a broader conversation about the mental health of veterans. Some argue that Penny's actions may have been influenced by trauma he experienced during his military service in Afghanistan, raising questions about the support and treatment available to veterans suffering from mental health issues. However, this is much less plausible when you consider Neely's violent past and how he was threatening multiple people on the train that day. Penny was doing everything he could to neutralize a dangerous situation.