Progressive Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Friday pressed criminal charges against Daniel Penny, the Marine veteran who used an ultimately fatal chokehold to restrain Jordan Neely, a mentally ill homeless man with a history of violent assaults, who had allegedly been threatening harm against passengers on a subway train.
That decision followed "new scrutiny" for DA Bragg, who has faced "criticism on all sides" for several other issues, over how he would respond to the deadly incident, New York's Gothamist reported on Thursday.
What it likely did was cause Bragg to lose whatever modicum of respect he still retained with both the ideological left and right, as the charge against Penny doesn't go far enough for the former and will be rejected as politically abusive and unnecessary by the latter.
DA Bragg ran for office in 2021 with promises to enact sweeping progressive criminal justice and prosecutorial reforms and, to an extent, has worked to make good on those promises, though leftist activists have criticized him for not fulfilling all of his vows in that regard and have continued to demand more.
At the same time, Bragg has also faced increasingly sharp criticism from the center and right for the perceived "soft on criminals" policies he has implemented, to say nothing of his apparently intense focus on going after former President Donald Trump and his family business in what appear to be overtly partisan prosecutions.
As for the recent incident involving Penny and Neely, comparisons have been drawn to a case last year in which Bragg moved swiftly to press murder charges against a bodega worker, Jose Alba, who fatally stabbed a man who attacked and attempted to rob him -- though the charges were eventually dropped amid substantial backlash for criminalizing what was obviously a clear act of self-defense.
Bragg was thus faced with a similar conundrum -- press charges against Penny for actions that are perceived by many as a justified act of defense for himself and others against threats posed by Neely, or face the wrath of leftist activists and mobs of protesters who have, for all intents and purposes, called for Penny's head as retribution for Neely's death.
According to the New York Post's editorial board, DA Bragg ultimately decided to side with the leftist mobs and "Team Crime" in choosing to press criminal charges against Penny in relation to the death of Neely.
In doing so, Bragg actually bypassed seeking an indictment from a grand jury -- which may very well have decided against charging Penny based on the available evidence, as the police had similarly decided immediately after the incident -- and instead chose on his own to accede to the demands that he exacts a pound of Penny's flesh from the leftist mob and progressive politicians.
Nevermind the fact that multiple witnesses have said that Neely was acting aggressively and threatening violence against others, that Penny was not alone in attempting to restrain Neely until authorities could arrive, that Penny was thanked by other subway riders for taking action, that Penny's attorneys said he had no intent to kill Neely, or that Neely had a lengthy history of mental illness and violent assaults on others and had an active felony warrant out for his arrest.
"All the loudmouths braying for Penny’s head don’t give a damn about restoring public safety in New York City," the Post's editorial board concluded. "And by jumping to work their will, Bragg again proved his loyalty to Team Crime."
In the end, according to New York's WNBC, DA Bragg on Friday charged Penny with second-degree manslaughter, a charge that applies to someone who "recklessly causes the death of another" and can result in up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Penny briefly appeared in court after turning himself in on Friday but did not enter a plea, and was subsequently released on a $100,000 bond with stipulations ahead of his next scheduled court appearance on July 17.
Whether a jury of fellow New Yorkers -- who presumably have also ridden the subway and similarly experienced aggressive and threatening homeless individuals with mental health issues -- decide to also side with the outraged mob and convict Penny or that Bragg has gone too far in punishing justifiable self-defense, is something that remains to be seen.