Daniel Penny legal fund raises nearly $2m after he is charged over Jordan Neely’s death

Supporters of the former US Marine charged with manslaughter after holding Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on a Manhattan subway train have raised almost $2m to help pay for his legal fees.

Daniel Penny, 24, was arrested and arraigned on a second-degree manslaughter charge on Friday over the 1 May death of the homeless street performer – a death which sparked protests calling for justice across New York City.

Mr Penny, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, didn’t enter a plea and was released after posting $100,000 bail. He is scheduled to next appear in court on 17 July.

While many New Yorkers have condemned Mr Penny’s actions and mental health advocates have argued against vigilante-style actions treating mentally ill people as though they are criminals, the former Marine has also received an outpouring of support from right-wing personalities arguing his actions were pro-public safety.

Now, a legal fund set up on the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo by Mr Penny’s attorneys at the firm Raiser and Kenniff has pulled in almost $2m in donations to help cover his legal costs.

“Daniel Penny is, a twenty-four-year-old college student and decorated Marine veteran, facing a criminal investigation stemming from him protecting individuals on a NYC subway train from an assailant who later died,” it reads.

“Funds are being raised to pay Mr. Penny’s legal fees incurred from any criminal charges filed and any future civil lawsuits that may arise, as well as expenses related to his defense. All contributions are greatly appreciated. Any proceeds collected which exceed those necessary to cover Mr. Penny’s legal defense will be donated to a mental health advocacy program in New York City.”

“The outpouring of generosity and support for Daniel Penny, is beyond anything we could have imagined,” his lawyer Thomas Kenniff told Fox News Digital.

“Daniel is incredibly grateful for the support of so many New Yorkers.”

On 1 May, Mr Penny placed Neely, 30, in a fatal chokehold for several minutes until he died on the floor of an F train on the Broadway-Lafayette platform in Manhattan. Witnesses have stated that Neely did not physically attack anyone before he was brought to the ground from behind.

Daniel Penny leaves Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday 12 May following his arraignment (AP)
Daniel Penny leaves Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday 12 May following his arraignment (AP)

Neely – who was experiencing a mental health crisis in the days leading up to his death – was known among social work teams involved in outreach to New York’s homeless community. He had numerous interactions with law enforcement and health responders over the years.

When he walked into the train car, Neely complained of hunger and thirst, according to witnesses and journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez, who posted a video of part of the incident on his Facebook page.

Mr Vazquez said Neely threw his jacket to the floor of the train car before another passenger grabbed him from behind in a headlock. Others grabbed at his arms. The widely shared video footage shows Mr Penny and two other men holding Neely to the floor of a train car for several minutes, while Mr Penny grabs Neely in a chokehold.

Another passenger can be heard in the video telling the men that his wife was in the military and warning them that placing Neely in a chokehold could kill him.

“You don’t have to catch a murder charge,” he said. “You got a hell of a chokehold, man.”

Neely passed out in the chokehold and was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The city’s medical examiner determined his cause of death was homicide.

According to a statement from Mr Penny’s attorneys at Raiser and Kenniff: “When Mr Penny, a decorated Marine veteran, stepped in to protect himself and his fellow New Yorkers, his well-being was not assured. He risked his own life and safety, for the good of his fellow passengers.

“The unfortunate result was the unintended and unforeseen death of Mr Neely,” they added.

However, Neely’s family hit out at Mr Penny and his statement, saying that he did not know anything about Neely when he grabbed him.

“In the first paragraph he talks about how ‘good’ he is and the next paragraph he talks about how ‘bad’ Jordan was in an effort to convince us Jordan’s life was ‘worthless,’” the Neely family’s attorneys Donte Mills and Lennon Edwards said.

“The truth is, he knew nothing about Jordan’s history when he intentionally wrapped his arms around Jordan’s neck, and squeezed and kept squeezing,” they added.