A lawyer representing Marine veteran Daniel Penny countered the claims made by Jordan Neely’s family attorney on Wednesday, asserting that the attorney’s understanding of the law was “completely incorrect.” This rebuttal came moments before a grand jury reached a decision to indict Penny.
Penny, aged 24, had been taken into custody on charges of manslaughter following the death of Neely, a 30-year-old Black homeless man who was described by prosecutors as displaying erratic behavior and causing fear among subway passengers in New York City. Penny’s legal team has consistently argued that the former Marine acted in self-defense and intervened to protect fellow train passengers. Following the grand jury’s vote on Wednesday, Penny was indicted on a second-degree manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison upon conviction.
Thomas Kenniff, the attorney representing Penny, addressed Neely’s family lawyer in an interview on “The Story” on Wednesday, countering the assertion that Neely, who struggled with mental illness, posed no threat when Penny restrained him by placing his hands around his neck.
“We strongly disagree with the notion that someone can take another person’s life based on a perceived possibility of harm. There was no assault,” expressed Donte Mills, the representative of the Neely family, during a press conference. “Mr. Neely did not initiate an attack, nor did he make physical contact or strike anyone. Yet, he was tragically choked to death.” Mills further claimed that Penny demonstrated a lack of concern for Jordan and prioritized his own well-being. He emphasized the need to challenge such behavior.
In response, Kenniff raised doubts about Mills’ familiarity with criminal law while speaking to anchor Martha MacCallum. Kenniff stated, “I am not acquainted with that individual, and I am uncertain about his level of experience in criminal law. However, his understanding of the law is fundamentally flawed.” He continued, “In New York State, the standard does not require waiting for a physical assault or for someone to be lying on the ground or worse. The standard revolves around whether a reasonable person, in my client’s position, would have reasonably feared immediate harm. The reality is that not only my client but also others expressed extreme terror in response to Jordan Neely’s actions on the subway train that afternoon.”
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“The testimonies of numerous civilian witnesses, innocent bystanders on the train, and individuals who came forward to assist my client in restraining Mr. Neely all support the fear and distress conveyed by my client,” the lawyer asserted.
Over the weekend, Penny released a series of videos recounting his perspective on the events that led to the altercation with Neely. Penny firmly denied any intent to choke Neely to the point of death while restraining him. He described the encounter as a “frightening situation” and recounted hearing Neely repeatedly making threats directed at the passengers aboard the train.
“At that moment, I was listening to music, and I removed my headphones to comprehend what he was yelling,” explained the East Village resident. “The three primary threats he incessantly repeated were, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ ‘I’m prepared to go to jail for life,’ and ‘I’m willing to die.'”
Penny stated that Neely exhibited signs of being under the influence of drugs when he “forcefully removed his jacket and angrily threw it towards the individuals seated next to me on my left.” Penny, a former Marine with a four-year service record, explained that he reacted swiftly to restrain Neely by applying a chokehold, as seen in the captured video, without any intention of causing Neely’s death.
“I want to clarify that the accusation of attempting to choke him to death is completely false. My aim was to restrain him,” Penny emphasized. “If you observe the video closely, you’ll notice the clear rise and fall of his chest, indicating that he was breathing. I was focused on preventing him from carrying out any potential threats.”
Kenniff, Penny’s legal representative, refrained from confirming whether his client testified before the grand jury but expressed that Penny’s legal team advised him to share his side of the story publicly. This was to counter the narrative propagated by critics who hastily labeled him as a “racist” and a “killer.”
According to Kenniff, “If you consider the intense hostility directed at my client from the very beginning of this case, with derogatory labels such as ‘killer, racist, vigilante’ being thrown around in the media—be it television, print, or social media—for weeks on end, a decision has to be made.” He continued, “Although the common choice might be for the client to remain silent, we deemed it crucial in this situation to make a deliberate decision for him to counter that narrative.”
During an interview with Fox News Digital last week, Penny expressed the emotional impact of being labeled a racist, stating that it was deeply hurtful and had taken a toll on him.
In the recent videos, Penny once again rejected the notion that race played a role in his actions, dismissing such claims as “absolutely ridiculous.”
“I did not perceive a Black man threatening passengers; I saw a man threatening passengers, many of whom were people of color,” Penny asserted. “The individual who assisted in restraining Mr. Neely was a person of color. A few days after the incident, I read in the papers that a woman of color came forward and referred to me as a hero.”