Donations Top $2 Million for Marine Charged With Manslaughter in Death of Mentally Ill Homeless Man on NYC Subway

Penny — with help from other subway passengers — subdued Neely after feeling threatened by his erratic behavior.

AP/Jeenah Moon)
Daniel Penny, center, at the 5th Precinct on May 12, 2023, at New York. AP/Jeenah Moon)

The legal defense fund for the Marine charged with manslaughter in the death of a homeless man on a New York City subway earlier this month has surpassed $2 million. The staggering sum was reached just three days after the former serviceman’s arraignment and is likely to grow in the coming weeks.

According to a fundraising page set up by what appears to be his legal team, the Marine, Daniel Penny, has raised more than $2,062,000 for his legal defense fund as of Monday morning. 

The fundraising page describes Mr. Penny as “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.”

It further states that the funds raised will be used to pay “legal fees incurred from any criminal charges filed and any future civil lawsuits that may arise.”

The charges against Mr. Penny arise from the incident on May 1, when, assisted by other straphangers, he subdued a homeless man, Jordan Neely, by using a chokehold on the subway after Neely was said to be behaving belligerently to other passengers. 

Outside of the Manhattan courthouse where Mr. Penny was arraigned, a lawyer for Neely’s family, Donte Mills, said on Friday that Mr. Penny’s “indifference” for another man’s life requires a conviction. “There was no attack,” Mr. Mills said to reporters. “Mr. Neely did not attack anyone, he did not touch anyone, he did not hit anyone, but he was choked to death and that can’t stand.”

A number of prominent conservatives have donated to Mr. Penny’s legal defense fund — including one possible presidential candidate. A conservative podcast star, Tim Pool, announced on Twitter that he had donated $20,000 to the fund, and the founder of Turning Point USA, Charlie Kirk, told his followers to donate. Even Governor DeSantis said he donated to Mr. Penny’s legal defense. “We must defeat the Soros-Funded DAs, stop the Left’s pro-criminal agenda, and take back the streets for law abiding citizens,” he wrote on Twitter. “We stand with Good Samaritans like Daniel Penny. Let’s show this Marine… America’s got his back.”

In a statement to the New York Times, the district attorney’s office announced that the decision to charge Mr. Penny with manslaughter in the second degree was made on Thursday, and he turned himself in the following day. “Daniel Penny will be arrested on a charge of manslaughter in the second degree,” the statement said. “We cannot provide any additional information until he has been arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court, which we expect to take place tomorrow.”

The decision to charge Mr. Penny follows an uproar from advocates for the homeless including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who cried “murder” and demanded Mr. Penny be held accountable. Mr. Penny’s attorney and supporters  say he was trying to keep other subway riders safe after Neely exhibited dangerous behavior, and that he did not intend to cause Neely’s death.

Under New York criminal law, manslaughter in the second degree is defined as recklessly, even if unintentionally, killing another person. A conviction carries a sentence of up to 15 years and substantial fines. 

Mr. Penny — with help from other subway passengers — subdued Neely after feeling threatened by his erratic behavior. They also said Neely threatened physical harm to subway passengers and said he was not afraid to return to prison should he hurt someone. Neely, a well-known Michael Jackson impersonator who was mentally ill, had a long rap sheet, including arrests for drug possession, assault, and other crimes. 

In a letter sent day’s after Neely’s death, Mr. Penny’s lawyers said that he “never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”

Since Neely’s death on May 1, Black Lives Matter activists and politicians have led protests in the streets and called for murder charges to be brought against Mr. Penny.

“Jordan Neely was murdered,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter. “But bc Jordan was houseless and crying for food in a time when the city is raising rents and stripping services to militarize itself while many in power demonize the poor, the murderer gets protected w/ passive headlines + no charges. It’s disgusting.”

The image of Mr. Penny, a white man, defending himself against Neely, who was Black, raised the specter of another so-called vigilante from New York City’s history. Bernie Goetz was charged with attempted murder, assault, and other crimes after shooting four Black teenagers on the subway during the crime wave of the 1980s. Goetz became a folk hero to people across the world who felt frustrated with wanton crime in public, and was vilified as a white vigilante who unnecessarily used violence. 

Despite the boost in police presence, crime on the city’s transit system rose by 30 percent in 2022 compared to a year earlier, outpacing a 22 percent citywide surge. The increase is despite ridership levels that are 60 percent below pre-pandemic levels. The city is currently spending an additional $20 million a month on overtime to fund an extra 1,200 cops on the subways on top of the 2,600 already assigned to the system.

New York City has also been trying, with limited success, to remove homeless people from the subway system and force them into shelters.

The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use