NEW YORK (PIX11) – Daniel Penny was arraigned Friday in connection with the subway chokehold death of a fellow rider, Jordan Neely, last week.
Penny was walked into the courtroom shortly after noon for his arraignment on a charge of manslaughter in the second degree. He did not enter a plea. Prosecutors said they are seeking a grand jury indictment.
The judge set his bond at $100,000 and Penny was freed pending trial. He must surrender his passport within 48 hours and he cannot leave New York without prior approval.
Penny, 24, appeared in court hours after turning himself in at a police station after prosecutors said they were charging him in the May 1 death of Neely.
Inside the courtroom, Penny faced straight ahead, his hands still cuffed. He spoke softly, offering one-word answers to Judge Kevin McGrath as his lawyer, Steve Raiser, placed an arm around his shoulder.
Penny’s lawyers 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 was Black.
Donte Mills, a lawyer for Neely’s family, said Neely wasn’t harming anyone.
“There was no attack,” Mills said at a news conference Friday. “Mr. Neely did not attack anyone. He did not touch anyone. He did not hit anyone. But he was choked to death.” Penny, he said, “acted with indifference. He didn’t care about Jordan, he cared about himself. And we can’t let that stand.”
Neely’s father, Andre, wept as another family lawyer, Lennon Edwards, recounted the last moments before Penny tackled Neely to the ground and put him in a chokehold.
“What did he think would happen?” Mills asked.
Friends of Neely said the former subway performer, remembered by some commuters for his Michael Jackson impersonations, had been dealing with homelessness and mental illness in recent years.
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.