Manhattan DA to charge former Marine in subway chokehold death

A spokesperson for the Manhattan District attorney said that Daniel Penny, the commuter who put Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold, will be arrested on second-degree manslaughter charges.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks at a press conference after the arraignment of former president Donald Trump in New York, Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

NEW YORK — A spokesperson for the Manhattan District attorney said Thursday that Daniel Penny, the commuter who put Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on the subway last week, will be arrested on second-degree manslaughter charges.

The 24-year-old former Marine is expected to be arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court Friday in a case that has sparked local and national outrage including from New York officials who’ve called Penny a vigilante.

“We can confirm that Daniel Penny will be arrested on a charge of manslaughter in the second degree,” said a spokesperson for Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. “We cannot provide any additional information until he has been arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court, which we expect to take place tomorrow.”

Lawyers for Penny have said he acted in self-defense.

On May 1, Neely was acting erratically aboard a subway train when Penny placed him in a chokehold and held him there with the assistance of other passengers. Neely died from strangulation, and his death was later ruled a homicide by the city’s medical examiner. A freelance journalist caught the incident on camera but Penny was not initially arrested or charged.

The progressive Manhattan prosecutor, who has dealt with a number of high-profile cases since taking office in 2022, has tapped Joshua Steinglass for the Neely case. Steinglass is a veteran assistant district attorney who recently secured a tax fraud conviction of the Trump Organization.

Penny has retained Steven Raiser and Thomas Kenniff — the latter ran against Bragg in 2021 as a Republican — and released a statement through them Friday saying that he was defending himself and did not mean to harm Neely.

Pressure had been mounting for Bragg to act, with leading political figures including Rev. Al Sharpton calling on the prosecutor to bring charges against Penny.

Earlier Thursday City Council members called for Penny’s arrest. Members described Neely’s death as a racist murder — and some criticized Mayor Eric Adams for not speaking of the incident in those terms.

“We all viewed a lynching for 15 minutes, we understand that was a crime,” said Council Member Kevin Riley, co-chair of the body’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, at a press conference outside City Hall. “When it happens to us, we don’t get the same justification or the same leeway as our counterparts … I just want the same level of respect that we give other people for Black people.”

In a speech on Wednesday, Adams said Neely “did not deserve to die” and called his death a “tragedy,” but did not mention Penny or call for charges against him.

Before the DA’s announcement Thursday, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Neely’s death was a “very tragic situation,” but also stopped short of calling for charges to be brought against Penny.

“Jordan Neely in my view should be alive today,” Jeffries said.

The case is sure to be watched closely, and could have broader implications for mental health care as Neely had cycled through the city jails, homeless shelters and safety net programs.

Some City Council members lamented the failure of the city’s social safety net to help Neely over many years, blaming Adams for not investing enough city resources in mental health care and housing.

“We continue to fight for all of the things that this city needs — mental health, housing, food for seniors, everything, and this mayor continues to say no,” said Council Member Crystal Hudson. “Everything we need, he says no to, and he’s a Black man, and so they want you to believe that because he’s a Black man and he’s saying no, that we don’t actually need that.”

Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.