Daniel Penny, a US Marine veteran who held homeless street artist Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on a New York subway train earlier this month, has surrendered to police to face a second-degree manslaughter charge.
Penny, 24, left the police precinct in handcuffs Friday morning after surrendering and was later arraigned and released. He waived the reading of his charges in court and was not required to enter a plea.
Manhattan prosecutors and the defense agreed to a bail package, including a $100,000 cash insurance company bond.
Penny, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in architecture and lives in New York City, must surrender his passport within 48 hours and cannot leave the state without judicial approval.
Neely’s family was hoping for stiffer charges.
“We believe that the conviction should be for murder because that was intentional,” said Neely family attorney Lennon Edwards on Friday morning.
“At some point, when people are screaming, ‘Let him go, you’re going to kill him’… He could’ve chosen to let him go, but he didn’t. And what did he think would happen if he didn’t? He had to know he would die. He had to,” said another Neely family attorney, Donte Mills, as Neely’s father and aunt stood by.
Mills later told CNN’s Anderson Cooper the courts have to look at how reasonable Penny’s actions were.
“When a lot of us think of self-defense, it’s built in, you’re defending yourself from something. That means you’re not first to act. Jordan Neely never touched him, he never hit him, he never lunged in his direction. In fact, Daniel Penny came from behind him and put him in a chokehold. So is that reasonable?”
Penny’s attorneys said they are confident he will be “fully absolved of any wrongdoing.”
Penny has “his head held up high,” said his attorney Thomas Kenniff, and is dealing with the situation “with the sort of integrity and honor that is characteristic of who he is” and “of his honorable service.”
“He risked his own life and safety, for the good of his fellow passengers. The unfortunate result was the unintended and unforeseen death of Mr. Neely,” Penny’s attorneys said in a statement Thursday.
Penny restrained Neely, 30, on a Manhattan subway after Neely began shouting he was hungry, thirsty and had little to live for. Neely was pronounced dead at a hospital.
His death was ruled a homicide, though the designation doesn’t mean there was intent or culpability, a spokesperson for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said earlier this week, noting at the time it was a matter for the criminal justice system to determine.
New York City Mayor Adams praised the approach taken to the investigation by District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office.
“I appreciate DA Bragg conducting a thorough investigation into the death of Jordan Neely. I have the utmost faith in the judicial process, and now justice can move forward against Daniel Penny,” Adams said in a statement Friday.
Neely had been “acting erratically” before the incident but had not attacked anyone on the train before being put in the chokehold, a witness who recorded the encounter told CNN earlier this month. The attorneys for Neely’s family indicated on CNN they wanted charges for other people seen in the video as Neely is held down, but Mills told Cooper the DA’s office has said it has not identified those people yet.
Neely’s death has ignited protests while refocusing attention on struggles with homelessness and mental illness across America.
The charging decision came Thursday afternoon after the DA’s office spent the weekend and much of this week going over the accounts of witnesses who were on the train, as well as video of the incident, according to the sources familiar with the case.
Neely’s family has criticized Penny’s “indifference.” “He knew nothing about Jordan’s history when he intentionally wrapped his arms around Jordan’s neck, and squeezed and kept squeezing,” the family’s attorneys have said.
Neely, who became known for his Michael Jackson impersonations, had experienced mental health issues since 2007, when he was 14 and his mother was murdered, Mills said. He had been traumatized after his mother’s brutal killing was followed by the discovery of her body in a suitcase, his friend Moses Harper told CNN.
“I want you to know that his family supported him,” Mills said. “But he had demons. He went through tragedy at a very young age.”
Before his death, Neely had been on a NYC Department of Homeless Services list of the city’s homeless with acute needs – sometimes referred to internally as the “Top 50” list – because individuals on the list tend to disappear, a source told CNN.
The list is generally not made public but is compiled in hopes that outreach organizations will be on the lookout for those individuals and alert the city’s homeless services department to intervene, the source said. The agency places additional focus on trying to find those on the list and give them the help they need, the source explained.
Penny is a veteran who served in the US Marines, according to law enforcement and military records. He was a sergeant and served from 2017 to 2021, and his last duty assignment was at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, military records show.
Penny’s attorneys said in a statement last week that Neely had been “aggressively threatening” passengers and Penny and others had “acted to protect themselves.”
“Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely,” they said.
Penny is due back in court on July 17.
CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia, Ray Sanchez, Artemis Moshtagian, Maria Santana, Liam Reilly, Alisha Ebrahimji and Steve Forrest contributed to this report.