NATIONAL NEWS

Marine veteran who fatally choked NYC subway rider Jordan Neely is freed pending trial

May 11, 2023, 9:03 PM | Updated: May 12, 2023, 11:46 am

NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. Marine veteran who placed an agitated New York City subway passenger in a chokehold, killing him and sparking outrage as bystander video went viral, surrendered Friday on a manslaughter charge filed nearly two weeks after the deadly encounter.

Daniel Penny, 24, was freed pending trial hours after turning himself in at a police station and appearing in court to answer criminal charges in the May 1 death of Jordan Neely, a former subway performer with a history of mental illness. Penny did not enter a plea.

Neely’s death prompted protests, while others embraced Penny as a vigilante hero. His lawyers have said he was acting in self-defense. Lawyers for Neely’s family said Neely wasn’t harming anyone and didn’t deserve to die. An autopsy ruled Neely’s death a homicide due to compression of the neck.

“Jordan Neely should still be alive today,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said.

A judge authorized Penny’s release on $100,000 bond and ordered him to surrender his passport and not to leave New York without approval. Prosecutors said they are seeking a grand jury indictment. Penny is due back in court on July 17.

Penny didn’t speak to reporters. At a brief arraignment, Penny faced straight ahead, his hands cuffed. He spoke softly, offering one-word answers to Judge Kevin McGrath as his lawyer, Steve Raiser, placed an arm around his shoulder. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said Neely had been making threats and “scaring passengers” when Penny approached him from behind and placed him in a chokehold. Penny “continued to hold Mr. Neely in the chokehold for several minutes,” even after he stopped moving, Steinglass said.

A freelance journalist who recorded Neely struggling to free himself, then lapsing into unconsciousness, said he had been shouting at passengers and begging for money aboard the train but had not gotten physical with anyone. Penny pinned Neely to the floor of the subway car with the help of two other passengers and held him in a chokehold.

Neely’s death has raised an uproar over many issues, including how the city treats people with mental illness, as well as crime, race and vigilantism. Police questioned Penny, who is white, in the aftermath but released him without charges. Neely was Black.

Thomas Kenniff, a lawyer for Penny, said he didn’t mean to harm Neely and is dealing with the situation with the “integrity and honor that is characteristic of who he is and characteristic of his honorable service in the United States Marine Corps.”

Donte Mills, a lawyer for Neely’s family, disputed Penny’s version of events, saying the veteran “acted with indifference. He didn’t care about Jordan, he cared about himself. And we can’t let that stand.”

“Mr. Neely did not attack anyone.” Mills said at a news conference Friday. “He did not touch anyone. He did not hit anyone. But he was choked to death.”

Neely’s father, Andre Zachery, wept as another family lawyer, Lennon Edwards, recounted the last moments before Penny tackled Neely to the ground and put him in a chokehold.

“What did he think would happen?” Mills asked.

Neely, remembered by some commuters for his Michael Jackson impersonations, had been dealing with homelessness and mental illness in recent years, friends said. Neely had been arrested multiple times and had recently pleaded guilty for assaulting a 67-year-old woman leaving a subway station in 2021.

Mills said Neely’s outlook changed after his mother was killed by her boyfriend in 2007. Through his struggles, Mills said, Neely found joy in singing, dancing and bringing a smile to other people’s faces.

“No one on that train asked Jordan: ‘What’s wrong, how can I help you?’” Mills said, urging New Yorkers in a similar situation: “Don’t attack. Don’t choke. Don’t kill. Don’t take someone’s life. Don’t take someone’s loved one from them because they’re in a bad place.”

Roger Abrams, a community health representative, said he saw Neely on the subway a week before his death. Neely was disheveled and told people he was hungry and in need of spare change. Abrams said he approached Neely and asked him why he no longer performs.

“I haven’t been feeling well,” Abrams remembered Neely saying.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office waited to file charges in part because prosecutors wanted to learn more about what happened aboard the train in the moments before Penny moved to restrain Neely. The delay helped fuel protests in the city. Some people climbed down to subway tracks, disrupting service and leading to arrests.

Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday that Neely’s death shouldn’t have happened.

A second-degree manslaughter conviction in New York requires a jury to find that a person engaged in reckless conduct that created an unjustifiable risk of death, consciously disregarded that risk and acted in a way that grossly deviated from how a reasonable person would act in a similar situation.

___

Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed to this report.

___

On Twitter, follow Jake Offenhartz at twitter.com/jangelooff, Bobby Caina Calvan at twitter.com/BobbyCalvan and Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/

National News

Associated Press

Florida prepares for next round of rainfall after tropical storms swamped southern part of the state

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Forecasters warned Floridians to prepare for additional flash flooding after a tropical disturbance dumped as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rainfall in the southern parts of the state, with worsening conditions expected Friday. The disorganized storm system was pushing across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico at roughly […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

1 of 2 abducted Louisiana children is found dead in Mississippi after their mother is killed

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Louisiana woman was found dead in her home Thursday, and her two young daughters were abducted and found hours later in Mississippi — one dead and the other alive, police said. A Louisiana resident who had dated the woman was arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, in connection with the deaths and […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Ready to renew your US passport? You can now apply online

WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s an easier way to renew your passport — online. The State Department has opened a trial run allowing a limited number of people to apply for their updated travel documents with a few clicks. You can’t just start anytime — windows will open at midday Eastern time each day and then […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

You don’t think corn dogs are haute cuisine? These chefs, using alligator sausage, beg to differ.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Stefani De Palma, an award-winning chef and head of the a team vying to represent the Americas in a French culinary competition in January, knew she wanted her team’s work to feature flavors of her native California. The challenge at the Bocuse d’Or Americas competition this week in New Orleans was […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Attorney charged in voting machine tampering case announces run for Michigan Supreme Court

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An attorney charged in connection with an effort to illegally access and tamper with voting machines in Michigan after the 2020 election said Thursday that he’s running for the state’s high court. Republican Matthew DePerno, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, made the announcement on the social platform X. “After […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

North Carolina judges grapple with defining ‘fair’ elections in redistricting suit

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina judges deciding whether a redistricting lawsuit claiming a state constitutional right to “fair” elections can go to trial questioned Thursday their ability to scrutinize district boundaries that way or to define what “fair” means. A panel of three trial judges listened to arguments on a motion by Republican legislative […]

14 hours ago

Marine veteran who fatally choked NYC subway rider Jordan Neely is freed pending trial