Former US Marine accused of killing homeless man with chokehold on New York subway train denies manslaughter

US News

A former US Marine sergeant accused of killing a homeless man after putting him in a chokehold on a New York subway train has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

Daniel Penny, 24, also denied a charge of criminally negligent homicide following the death of Jordan Neely in May.

Video filmed by a freelance journalist and posted online showed Penny lying beneath Mr Neely, holding him in a headlock position for several minutes as he tried and failed to break free.

Neely, a 30-year-old former Michael Jackson impersonator who struggled with mental illness, was taken to hospital, where he died.

Jordan Neely
Pic:Mills & Edwards LLP
Jordan Neely
Pic:Mills & Edwards LLP

Passengers on the subway train at the time of the incident said Mr Neely had been shouting before the incident about how hungry he was and that he was willing to return to jail or die.

According to the court documents, Penny approached Mr Neely from behind and put him in a chokehold for “several minutes”, including “after his body had stopped moving”.

Penny claimed he acted to defend himself and other passengers, and did not intend to kill Neely.

Witnesses said Neely did not physically threaten or attack anyone before Penny grabbed him.

Penny’s lawyers said Mr Neely had long suffered from mental illness and had a documented history of violent and erratic behaviour.

Jordan Neely is pictured before going to see the Michael Jackson movie, "This is It," outside the Regal Cinemas in Times Square in 2009. (Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News/TNS)
Jordan Neely is pictured before going to see the Michael Jackson movie, “This is It,” outside the Regal Cinemas in Times Square in 2009. (Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News/TNS)

He had been arrested many times, with the most recent arrest before his death for punching a 67-year-old woman in 2021.

Penny was questioned by police on the day of Mr Neely’s death and was arrested and made an initial court appearance 11 days later.

On Wednesday, at Penny’s short arraignment hearing at Manhattan Criminal Court, his indictment was unsealed by prosecutors.

Read more:
Daniel Penny: Former US marine charged with manslaughter
Jordan Neely’s family gives statement after his death

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said: “Daniel Penny stands indicted for manslaughter after allegedly putting Jordan Neely in a deadly chokehold for several minutes until and after he stopped moving.

“I hope Mr Neely’s loved ones are on the path towards healing as they continue to mourn this tragic loss.”

Penny, wearing a blue suit and red tie, was told to return to court in October for a pre-trial hearing.

If found guilty of manslaughter in the second degree, Penny faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, while the charge of criminally negligent homicide carries a maximum sentence of five years.

After the hearing, Penny’s lawyers told reporters they had great confidence that a jury of his peers would return a not guilty verdict on all counts at trial.

“Danny won’t be the only one on trial. The right and duty to defend one another will be on trial,” his lawyer, Steven Raiser, said.

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