More than double the $1 million GiveSendGo haul reported on Saturday, donations have been spurred on by some high-profile figures speaking out in support of the Marine veteran as he faces a second-degree manslaughter charge over the death of Neely, a homeless man who allegedly was threatening people on the train before Penny restrained him with a headlock for about 15 minutes.
“We stand with Good Samaritans like Daniel Penny. Let’s show this Marine … America’s got his back,” Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted along with a link to the fundraiser.
Tens of thousands of donations, some as high as $10,000, as well as “prayers” can be seen on the page set up by Raiser & Kenniff, P.C..
“Daniel Penny is a twenty-four-year-old college student and decorated Marine veteran, facing a criminal investigation stemming from him protecting individuals on a NYC subway train from an assailant who later died,” the page says.
“Funds are being raised to pay Mr. Penny’s legal fees incurred from any criminal charges filed and any future civil lawsuits that may arise, as well as expenses related to his defense,” the page adds. “All contributions are greatly appreciated. Any proceeds collected which exceed those necessary to cover Mr. Penny’s legal defense will be donated to a mental health advocacy program in New York City.”
Video which went viral on social media showed a man, later identified as Penny, restraining Neely in a headlock on the floor of a subway train with the help of others on May 1. Neely appeared to lose consciousness and was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital. Witnesses have recounted how Neely was acting erratically, even threateningly, as he yelled about being hungry, said he did not care if he died or went to jail, and threw garbage at commuters before Penny subdued him.
New York City’s medical examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide due to “compression of neck (chokehold),” but the ruling did not determine culpability. That changed when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whom critics accuse of being too soft on crime, came in with the second-degree manslaughter charge.
Penny surrendered to law enforcement in New York to be arraigned on Friday. Penny did not enter a plea and was released on $100,000 bail. Penny is scheduled to be back in court on July 17. If convicted on the manslaughter charge, Penny faces up to 15 years in prison.
Penny’s attorneys declared on Friday that they “fully expect that Danny will be exonerated of all charges,” according to ABC News.
In an earlier statement, lawyers for Penny said their client sought to defend himself and others when the situation started to get dangerous. “When Mr. Neely began aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and the other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect themselves, until help arrived. Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” they said.
Neely, who was 30, was known to locals as a dancing Michael Jackson impersonator who, over the years, garnered an extensive criminal history as he struggled with mental health issues and homelessness. His death led to protests, including activists jumping on subway tracks while demanding accountability, and New York City Democratic Mayor Eric Adams called it a “tragedy that never should have happened.” Neely’s family members and their attorneys have called for Penny to face a more serious murder charge.
“When you’re trained in combat, it gives you options, but Daniel Penny chose to use a technique that is designed to cut off air, and he chose to continue to hold that chokehold until there was no life left in Jordan Neely,” said attorney Donte Mills, according to The New York Post. “We believe that the conviction should be for murder because that’s intentional,” the lawyer added.
A GoFundMe page set up by Carolyn Neely, Jordan Neely’s aunt, has raised more than $125,000 as of Monday morning. The page says donations will go toward Jordan Neely’s funeral and expenses related to his burial. Funeral services are expected to take place on May 19 in Harlem.