Manhattan DA Bragg to present evidence to grand jury for possible indictment in chokehold death on NYC subway

 May 6, 2023

Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will reportedly present a grand jury next week with information and evidence about the death of a 30-year-old homeless and mentally ill man named Jordan Neely on a New York City subway train this week, according to CBS News.

That grand jury will then determine if criminal charges are appropriate for Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old Marine veteran who was caught on camera subduing Neely with a chokehold for an extended period after Neely allegedly threatened and assaulted him and other passengers on the train.

Penny had been questioned and released by the police following the incident, but activists, protesters, and some politicians have loudly demanded that DA Bragg seek "justice" for Neely, who is black, and pursue criminal charges against Penny, who is white.

Grand jury to decide on a possible indictment

The New York Post reported that it had learned that the Manhattan DA's Office had assigned "senior, experienced prosecutors" to conduct a "rigorous" investigation of the incident that would include a review of the Medical Examiner's report that deemed Neely's chokehold death to be a "homicide" in addition to video and witness statements about the fatal incident.

The outlet noted that its legal sources suggested the possibility that the grand jury could issue an indictment for Penny for alleged manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide in the matter.

Notably, a conviction for first-degree manslaughter can result in up to 25 years in prison, while second-degree manslaughter has a maximum of 15 years behind bars, and criminally negligent homicide can lead to a sentence of one to five years.

Of course, whether or not the grand jury decides to issue an indictment will depend upon whether the evidence presented, including video and witness statements, lead to the conclusion that Penny's actions were uncalled for or justified due to the alleged threat posed by Neely to himself and other riders on the train.

Witnesses claim Neely was acting aggressively and making threats

NBC News reported that a police spokesperson said the department had received multiple 911 calls about a verbal dispute that turned into a physical altercation on a subway train and that some of those calls had indicated that Neely had been threatening and aggressive in his words and behavior.

The outlet noted that it was similarly informed by multiple witnesses to the incident, including the man who filmed the viral cellphone video, that Neely had acted aggressively toward other passengers and made threats of violence, such as "that he didn’t care about anything, he didn’t care about going to jail, he didn’t care that he gets a big life sentence."

Neely, who has been portrayed by some activists and media outlets as a harmless homeless man and Michael Jackson impersonator who suffered mental issues following the 2007 murder of his mother, had a lengthy rap sheet of dozens of criminal violations over the years, including multiple incidents of violent physical assaults against other passengers on the subway trains and platforms.

Attorneys say Penny had no intention to harm or kill Neely

NBC News further reported that Marine veteran Penny was identified this week in a statement released by his attorneys with the Raiser and Kenniff law firm.

The attorneys said, "When Mr. Neely began aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and the other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect themselves, until help arrived," and noted, "Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death."

"For too long, those suffering from mental illness have been treated with indifference," the attorneys added in reference to Neely. "We hope that out of this awful tragedy will come a new commitment by our elected officials to address the mental health crisis on our streets and subways."

The outlet also reported that the U.S. Marine Corps has confirmed that Penny, a Long Island native, served from 2017 until 2021 and since exiting the service had spent some time in college, backpacking through Central America, and job-hunting in New York City.

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