By JAKE OFFENHARTZ and MICHAEL R. SISAK (Associated Press)
NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. Marine veteran who used a fatal chokehold on an agitated fellow passenger on the New York City subway turned himself in to authorities Friday on a manslaughter charge that could send him to prison.
Daniel Penny, 24, was expected to appear in court later in the afternoon to answer to criminal charges in the May 1 death of Jordan Neely.
Penny didn’t speak to reporters as he arrived at a Manhattan police station with his lawyers Friday morning. His attorneys have said he was acting in self-defense when he pinned Neely to the floor of the subway car with the help of two other passengers and held him in a chokehold for several minutes.
A freelance journalist who recorded Neely struggling to free himself, then lapsing into unconsciousness, said he had been shouting at passengers and begging for money aboard the train but had not gotten physical with anyone. Penny’s lawyers have said he was “threatening” passengers but haven’t elaborated.
Neely’s death has raised an uproar over many issues, including how those with mental illness are treated by the transit system and the city, as well as crime, race and vigilantism. Penny, who is white, was questioned by police in the aftermath but was released without charges. Neely is Black.
Thomas Kenniff, one of Penny’s attorneys, said the veteran didn’t mean to harm Neely and “is dealing with the situation, like I said, with the sort of integrity and honor that is characteristic of who he is and characteristic of his honorable service in the United States Marine Corps.”
Friends of Neely said the former subway performer had been dealing with homelessness and mental illness in recent years. He had been arrested multiple times and had recently pleaded guilty for assaulting a 67-year-old woman leaving a subway station in 2021.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office had investigated the case for several days before deciding to file charges, in part to try to learn what happened aboard the train in the moments before Penny moved to restrain Neely. Prosecutors did not immediately explain why they decided criminal charges were warranted.
Neely’s death prompted protests in the city. On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who had earlier said the investigation needed time to play out, gave an address in which he said Neely’s death shouldn’t have happened.
A second-degree manslaughter charge in New York will require the jury to find that a person has engaged in reckless conduct that creates an unjustifiable risk of death, and then consciously disregards that risk.
The law also requires that conduct to be a gross deviation from how a reasonable person would act in a similar situation.
The charges could carry a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment, though any jail term could also be far shorter.
Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed to this report.
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