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Daniel Penny arraigned in chokehold death of Jordan Neely

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

But first, to New York. Today, the man who put Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on a subway last week was arraigned in Manhattan criminal court. Daniel Penny faces one charge of second-degree manslaughter. Samantha Max of member station WNYC was in the courtroom and is here to tell us what happened. Hi, Sam.

SAMANTHA MAX, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so these two men were on the subway together last week. Can you just remind us what unfolded on that train?

MAX: So Daniel Penny is a 24-year-old white man who lives in New York City, and he was riding the subway when Jordan Neely - he's a 30-year-old Black man - boarded and started yelling, according to an eyewitness. And this witness who posted a video on Facebook says that Neely was shouting that he was hungry and thirsty, that he was fed up and didn't care if he went to jail or died. And at some point after that, Penny put him in a chokehold, and the two of them fell to the ground. A video of the incident shows that he kept his arms wrapped around Neely's neck for several minutes, even after Neely went limp. And Neely was pronounced dead that same day.

CHANG: OK. And all of that happened almost two weeks ago. What happened today?

MAX: Penny was charged with second-degree manslaughter. So in New York, that means you are accused of recklessly causing someone's death. It's a class C felony. He could spend up to 15 years in prison if he's convicted. So this morning, he turned himself into police, and then a few hours later, he walked into one of the arraignment rooms in the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, had his hands cuffed behind his back while he was in the courtroom. Prosecutors asked for $100,000 bail, and defense attorneys didn't object to that, though they did note that Penny had voluntarily turned himself in and that he had served in the Marines. Penny's attorneys say that he put Neely in a chokehold to protect himself and his fellow New Yorkers. A crowdfunding page to cover Penny's legal costs has been gaining a lot of money, more than $460,000 last time I checked.

CHANG: Wow.

MAX: And this particular fundraising platform has also hosted fundraisers for people who stormed the U.S. Capitol and for Kyle Rittenhouse, who you might remember shot three people during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020.

CHANG: So it sounds like outside the courtroom, there are quite a few people defending Penny's actions. Is that right?

MAX: Yes. Even though there is no evidence at this point that he faced a physical threat, some people think he was protecting himself. And, you know, New Yorkers are concerned about crime at this moment in time, especially on the subways. But other people are really upset. You know, the fatal encounter has sparked this whole debate about whether people who are mentally ill or who are experiencing homelessness have the resources that they need, including people like Jordan Neely.

CHANG: OK. So where do things go from here for Penny, real quick?

MAX: The DA will share the evidence with a grand jury, which can then decide whether to indict Penny for manslaughter or any other charge. And then Penny has already posted bond, but he's due back in court in July.

CHANG: That is Samantha Max of member station WNYC. Thank you, Samantha.

MAX: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Samantha Max covers criminal justice for WPLN and joins the newroom through the Report for America program. This is her second year with Report for America: She spent her first year in Macon, Ga., covering health and inequity for The Telegraph and macon.com.
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