Thomas Kenniff, an attorney for Daniel Penny, pushed back on claims this week from the family attorney of Jordan Neely, who claimed that Penny thought he had the right to take someone’s life.
Kenniff made the remarks during an interview Monday with Martha MacCallum on “The Story” when asked about an interview that Penny gave to the New York Post about the incident involving Neely that transpired at the start of the month on a New York City subway.
MaCallum read Kenniff a statement from the Neely family, who said in part: “We want to know why he didn’t let go of that choke hold until Jordan was dead. Your planned drive through Africa can’t explain why you thought you had the right to take someone’s life, even if they were houseless and had a mental illness.”
Kenniff responded by saying that he was not going to get into a back-and-forth fight in the media with the opposing side’s attorney.
“It’s absurd to say that Danny Penny thought he had the right to take anyone else’s life and intended to take anyone’s life,” he said. “This was a situation where my client, who is just an everyday New Yorker, was put in a situation that none of us would want to be in and took reasonable steps to try to subdue someone who had introduced a frightening, threatening environment into that subway train.”
Thomas Kenniff, an attorney for Daniel Penny, says it's obviously absurd to claim his client wanted to kill anyone. pic.twitter.com/u0dLk7y5BG
— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) May 22, 2023
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Here now exclusively, one of Daniel Penny’s attorneys, Thomas Kenniff, also a commissioned officer in the Army National Guard’s Judge Advocate General Corps, known as JAG, and a veteran of the Iraq War.
Tom, great to have you back on the program again. Good to see you today. Thank you for — for joining us.
Let me start with your client’s interview with The New York Post over the weekend, if I may. How do you think he did? Were you pleased with the answers that he gave The New York Post?
THOMAS KENNIFF, ATTORNEY FOR DANIEL PENNY: I think he did great.
And there’s really — we really never had any doubt that he would. Danny is a rock-solid guy who was put into a situation that, unfortunately, is all too common on the streets and the subway systems of New York City these days, but did what he thought was the right thing to do.
So it’s not a situation where we’re worried that, oh, he’s going to say the wrong thing or put his foot in his mouth, because he stands by all the actions he took that afternoon, obviously regrets that — the tragic ending, as anyone would regret the loss of human life, but that’s not something he intended.
It’s not something he caused. So, we thought that it was appropriate to have that message out.
Here’s another comment from Donte Nills — Donte Mills — excuse me — who’s the Neely family attorney. He says: “We want to know why he didn’t let go of that choke hold until Jordan was dead. Your planned drive-through Africa can’t explain why you thought you had the right to take someone’s life, even if they were houseless and had a mental illness.”
What do you say to that, Tom?
KENNIFF: You know, look, Martha, I mean, I’m not going to get into a back-and-forth with attorneys that are representing the family, I suppose, is their role here. I’m just not going to do that.
This is a case that we’re dealing with the Manhattan district attorneys on — Manhattan district attorney’s office. Excuse me. We have had a very good dialogue with them. We expect that we will continue to do so. But, as I have said, it’s absurd to say that Danny Penny thought he had the right to take anyone else’s life and intended to take anyone’s life.
This was a situation where my client, who is just an everyday New Yorker, was put in a situation that none of us would want to be in and took reasonable steps to try to subdue someone who had introduced a frightening, threatening environment into that subway train.
MACCALLUM: Yes, and you have witnesses who will come forward as part of the grand jury situation, and they will attest to that, that they were scared, that people called 911?
Tell me a little bit about your case. And will he also testify in that grand jury proceeding, Tom?
KENNIFF: The decision to have a defendant or someone accused of a crime testify in front of a grand jury is obviously a very significant decision.
It’s one that’s made with a lot of deliberation between the legal team, the client. And that’s not a decision that has been made at this juncture. We first need to have come to the point where the grand jury presentation is actually ongoing, to where we even get to that point.
What I will say, though, is that we have a very thorough and proactive investigation. We have since the very beginning of our representation in this case. And there are a multitude of civilian witnesses…
KENNIFF: … both those other individuals who got involved in the — in subduing Mr. Neely and the bystanders on the train, who really talk almost uniformly about how frightening and how terrifying this situation was for them, just being on the train and observing Mr. Neely’s behaviors.
MACCALLUM: Yes. And Daniel said that he would do it again if he was in the same situation, because he believed that he was protecting the people who were on that train.
First, unfortunately, you get a lot of race politics injected into this. And I want to play this from Al Sharpton over the weekend and just get your thoughts on how — what impact this has on a fair trial situation. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: A good samaritan help those in trouble. They don’t choke them out.
When they choke Jordan, they put their arms around all of us. All of us have the right to live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: What do you think about what he said there and about whether or not you can get a fair trial for your client here in New York?
Again, you know, I’m not going to go — go down the rabbit hole of getting into proxy shouting matches with the Al Sharptons of the world or any of the people on really both sides of the aisle that are trying to politicize this case. There’s nothing political about this case.
This is a case of an everyday young man who was confronted with a difficult, frightening, terrifying situation and took appropriate steps to try to restrain someone who was a threat. There’s really no question about that.
Look, as far as a fair trial, I have been trying cases in New York City for 20 years, the majority of which have been in front of Manhattan jurors. I don’t have any doubt at this time that my client can get a fair trial here. I think, in some ways, this is really the best place to try the case, because so many people that are going to be judging the facts will be able to relate to the sort of situation that confronted my client and the other passengers on that train.
MACCALLUM: And it’s unfortunate that the city hasn’t done enough to help people like Jordan Neely, and that has put others, and Daniel Penny perhaps among them, who feel they have to step in on their own to keep people safe around them.
This process is just beginning. We will see where it goes.
Tom, I hope you will come back and talk to us a bit more as you move through this trial and your representation of Daniel. Thank you so much for being here today.
KENNIFF: All right, thanks, Martha. It’s been a pleasure.
MACCALLUM: Always good to be with you.