Former US Marine to be charged in choking death on New York subway

By Tyler Clifford and Brendan O'Brien

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A former U.S. Marine who killed a homeless man by putting him in a chokehold on the New York City subway will be arrested on Friday and arraigned on a charge of manslaughter, the Manhattan district attorney said on Thursday.

A viral video showed the former Marine, identified as Daniel Penny, putting 30-year-old Jordan Neely in a chokehold on May 1 while they rode on the F train in Manhattan. Neely died from a compression of the neck, the medical examiner said, but Penny's lawyers said he did not mean to kill him.

According to witnesses, Neely, who was known to impersonate Michael Jackson in the subway system, was complaining loudly about being hungry and saying he was ready to die when Penny came up behind him and gripped him around the neck. Penny restrained him on the floor of the subway car until he appeared to stop moving. Neely was later declared dead.

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

A bystander's video of Neely's death garnered national attention and revived a debate among New Yorkers about crime in the subway and what to do with a growing number of homeless people in the city.

The killing, and a delay by prosecutors in charging Penny, sparked protests, with some saying the incident amounted to a "lynching" and an example of "white vigilantism" against people of color. Neely was Black and Penny is white.

In a statement from his legal team, Penny expressed "condolences to those close to Mr. Neely." The statement alleged that Neely had aggressively threatened passengers riding in the subway car.

"Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death," the statement said.

Penny's attorneys, Steven Raiser and Thomas Kenniff, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An attorney for Neely's family said in a statement on Monday that Penny's actions on the train and his words show that "he needs to be in prison."

A spate of attacks on train passengers last year, particularly Asian Americans, prompted Adams to increase police patrols and expand outreach to the mentally ill in the subway system, citing rising homelessness in the wake of the pandemic.

The video that circulated on social media after Neely's death showed a man identified as Penny applying a chokehold to a man identified as Neely for more than three minutes. Two other men are seen in the video restraining Neely's arms before he went limp.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.

(Reporting by Tyler Clifford and Jasper Ward; editing by Rami Ayyub and David Gregorio)