Crime & Justice

White ex-US Marine who killed black homeless man pleads not guilty

New York, Jun 28 (EFE).- The white United States Marine Corps veteran who fatally choked a black homeless man on the New York City subway pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Daniel Penny, 24, was indicted last month for having placed 30-year-old Jordan Neely in a chokehold that resulted in his death.

Then victim’s father, Andre Zachery, was in the courtroom as the defendant entered the not guilty plea and Judge Maxwell Wiley said that the ex-Marine, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, can remain free on bail of $100,000.

The next hearing in the case is set for Oct. 25.

Penny was riding the subway in Manhattan on May 1 when Neely, a Michael Jackson impersonator, boarded the car and began yelling that he was hungry and thirsty, indicating that he was prepared to die or go to jail.

At one point, Neely tossed his jacket on the floor of the subway car, but video of the incident does not show any violence on his part.

Neely had a history of mental health problems and a police record that included an arrest for assault. But witnesses to the episode on the subway said that while he was “behaving erratically,” he did not attack or threaten anyone.

Penny, however, says that he was afraid Neely would become violent.

“I knew I had to act, and I acted in a way that would protect the other passengers, protect myself and protect Mr. Neely,” the defendant says in a video released by his lawyers.

Another rider aided Penny in keeping Neely pinned to the floor until police arrived to find the homeless man unconscious.

Neely was pronounced dead at the hospital and while police questioned Penny, they did not hold him.

During Neely’s May 19 funeral, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that ff Neely had been white and Penny black, police “would not have let that black guy leave the precinct that night.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg presented the case to a grand jury after the coroner’s office ruled that Neely’s death was a homicide.

Defense attorneys were upbeat about Penny’s prospects after Wednesday’s hearing.

“Manhattan juries tend to take the subways, and they understand what it’s like to be on a subway, what it’s like to be confined underground, what it’s like to not be able to leave when faced with a threat,” Thomas Kenniff, who ran unsuccessfully against Bragg for DA, told reporters.

Politicians on the right have praised Penny and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, even called him a “good Samaritan.”

Sympathizers have contributed $3 million to Penny’s legal defense fund, but a lawyer representing Neely’s family, Donte Mills, said Wednesday that the victim’s loved ones remain confident justice will be done.

“He took a life,” he said outside the courthouse. “And for everyone who thought donating $3 million would somehow make this go away or buy his pass: It’s not going to happen. It didn’t work.”

Mills added that Penny “did not have the courage” to look Neely’s father in the eyes during the proceedings.

EFE rh/dr

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