An online fundraiser for Daniel Penny, the man who earlier this month put Jordan Neely into a fatal chokehold aboard the New York City subway, has surpassed $400,000, and the number keeps on rocketing upwards.
The GiveSendGo page set up by Raiser & Kenniff, P.C. says the money will go toward the legal defense fund for Penny, a 24-year-old U.S. Marine veteran and college student, as he faces a second-degree manslaughter charge over the death of Neely, a homeless man who allegedly was terrorizing people on the train before Penny restrained him with a headlock for about 15 minutes.
Donations, some as high as $1,000, and prayers could be seen on the page after Penny surrendered to law enforcement in New York to be arraigned on Friday. Penny did not enter a plea — contrary to what had been initially reported by the Gothamist — with the expectation that he will be indicted by a grand jury. Penny was released on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be back in court on July 17. If convicted on the manslaughter charge, Penny faces up to 15 years in prison.
“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 fundraising page says. “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.”
Neely was a 30-year-old man 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. Aboard a subway on May 1, video showed Penny on the ground holding Neely in a chokehold, restraining the man with the help of others. Neely appeared to lose consciousness and was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital.
Witnesses aboard the subway car recounted Neely yelling about not having food, saying he did not care if he died or went to jail, and throwing garbage at commuters. Lawyers for Penny said their client acted in self defense 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 in a statement.
New York City’s medical examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide due to “compression of neck (chokehold)”, but that determination 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.
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Neely’s death has led to protests, including activists jumping on subway tracks, and New York City Mayor 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 $60,000 as of Friday afternoon. 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.