Jordan Neely’s family and their attorneys recently suggested that Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old Marine veteran who put Neely in a fatal chokehold, should face more severe charges.
Neely, a 30-year-old Black homeless man, was riding the F train in New York on May 1 when Penny, with the help of other subway riders, placed him in a chokehold. Witnesses said Neely had been “yelling” about not having food and water prior to Penny’s intervention.
On Thursday, Penny was charged with second-degree manslaughter nearly two weeks after Neely’s death, which had been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner. If found guilty of manslaughter, Penny could face a five to 25-year prison sentence.
But the Neely family attorneys believe the current charges are insufficient.
“Is that enough for someone who choked somebody out on a train and took their life?” Lennon Edwards, one of the Neely family attorneys, said at the news conference on Friday.
“Justice looks like a conviction for murder,” Edwards stated.
“We need a full cup of justice here, and we’re asking for us to continue to press forward until that happens,” Edwards added.
Following the incident, Penny was questioned by the police but was then released, prompting days of protests demanding accountability and justice.
Edwards said he and Neely’s family spoke with the district attorney prior to Penny’s arraignment, who told them there was “no timeline for an arrest” because the evidence was still being gathered. However, an arraignment could occur “maybe in June,” according to Edwards.
“We told them that there is enough evidence already for an arrest. There is enough information already for the process of justice to begin,” Edwards said during the news conference.
Witnesses told the police that before Penny’s involvement, Neely behaved erratically and screamed about hunger and tiredness.
“The man got on the subway car and began to say a somewhat aggressive speech, saying he was hungry, he was thirsty, 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,” Juan Alberto Vazquez, who captured the incident on video, told NBC New York. “That ‘It doesn’t even matter if I died.’”
On May 6, Penny and his attorneys released a statement claiming Neely had a “documented history of violent and erratic behavior” and Penny, along with other passengers, had “acted to protect themselves” after Neely began “aggressively threatening” them.
“Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” the attorneys said in the statement.
But witnesses told prosecutors that Neely did not attack anyone, CBS News reports.
“No one on that train asked Jordan, ‘What’s wrong? How can I help you?’ He was choked to death instead,” Donte Mills, another Neely family attorney, said at the news conference.
Penny turned himself in on Friday and was released after posting bond later that day, NPR reports. In a statement, Penny’s attorneys maintained that he had “stepped in to protect himself and his fellow New Yorkers” on the day of the incident and that they’re confident he will be “fully absolved of any wrongdoing.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will share evidence with the grand jury, which will be used to determine whether Penny should be indicted for manslaughter or other charges, according to NPR. Penny is expected to appear in court in July.
“[Penny] cannot rewrite how the story ends,” Edwards said. “The story ends with his arms wrapped around Jordan’s neck, choking him to death, and that’s what he has to pay for.”