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Grand jury indicts Marine veteran who held homeless man in fatal chokehold on NYC subway

<i>David Dee Delgado/Reuters</i><br/>A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict Daniel Penny
David Dee Delgado/Reuters
A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict Daniel Penny

By John Miller, CNN

(CNN) — A Manhattan grand jury has indicted Daniel Penny, the Marine veteran who held the homeless Black man and street artist Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on the New York City subway, a Manhattan District Attorney’s spokesperson told CNN.

Penny, 24, was indicted on second-degree manslaughter charges. An arraignment is expected to be held on June 28, the spokesperson said.

Penny surrendered to police last month to face a second-degree manslaughter charge. He has since been out on a $100,000 bond. 

Penny held Neely, in a chokehold on the subway train May 1 after Neely began shouting at passengers that he was hungry and thirsty and didn’t care whether he died. Penny forced 30-year-old Neely to the train floor and restrained him in a chokehold until he stopped breathing. A medical examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide. 

Penny’s attorneys say they are confident a trial jury will find their client’s actions on the train were “fully justified,” they said in a statement.

“While we respect the decision of the grand jury to move this case forward to trial, it should be noted that the standard of proof in a grand jury is very low and there has been no finding of wrongdoing,” attorneys Steven Raiser and Thomas Kenniff said.

In May, Penny told the New York Post he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life,” amid what has become a contentious homicide case that has highlighted the city’s handling of unhoused people.

Neely was on a New York City Department of Homeless Services list of the city’s homeless with acute needs – sometimes referred to internally as the “Top 50” list – because people on the list tend to disappear, a source told CNN.

Penny told the newspaper he would take action in a similar situation again, “if there was a threat and danger in the present.” Penny said he is not a White supremacist and race was not a factor.

On Wednesday, the law firm representing Neely’s family said they believe the indictment is “the right result for the wrong he committed.”

“We believe in our criminal justice system and believe it worked today,” the statement from Mills & Edwards LLP said.

“Bottom line – at some point Mr. Penny should have let go before Jordan died,” the statement read. “There is no excuse for choking anyone for that long. Any reasonable person knows choking someone for that long will kill them.

“Daniel Penny did not have the right to be the judge, jury and executioner.”

Neely’s killing, part of which was captured on video that was posted online, sparked demonstrations calling for justice in his case as Manhattan prosecutors spent days deliberating how to proceed before apprehending and charging Penny.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said the indictment was an important step in the legal process but much more needs to be done for people like Neely.

“No matter the charges or the outcome in this case, we have to reckon with and upend the systems that left Jordan angry and hopeless, and the structures that mean Daniel Penny has received more resources in the last month than Jordan did in his entire life, marked by trauma and cut tragically short,” Williams said.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Alisha Ebrahimji, Brynn Gingras, Kara Scannell, Mark Morales, Aya Elamroussi, Omar Jimenez and Rob Frehse contributed to this report

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