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U.S. Marine Veteran Pleads Not Guilty to Charges in Subway Chokehold Death of Black Man

Daniel Penny, the U.S. Marine veteran charged with choking homeless Black man Jordan Neely to death on a Manhattan subway in New York City, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Wednesday.

Penny, white and 24, was recorded on cellphone video holding Neely in a chokehold on an F-Train for several minutes on May 1, and arraigned on the charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

“The grand jury evaluated the evidence under the direction of the district attorney’s office. We really weren’t privy to what happened there so we can’t speak to why they did what they did or why they decided on the charges that they decided on,” said defense attorney Steven Raiser.

Neely, a former Michael Jackson impersonator, was shouting and begging for money when Penny pinned him to the floor of the moving subway car with the help of two other passengers and held him in a chokehold for more than three minutes. Neely, 30, lost consciousness during the struggle and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Neely’s death resulted in protests to demand justice for him. Political voices have surfaced, calling for more protections for those socially sidelined.

A grand jury voted to indict Penny on updated charges earlier this month. Wednesday’s arraignment on the charges lasted mere minutes. Penny, who is free on bond, only uttered the words “not guilty” before he left the courtroom with his lawyers.

Penny, who served in the Marines for four years and was discharged in 2021, has said he acted to protect himself and others from Neely, who shouted “I’m gonna kill you” and said he was “ready to die” or go to jail for life.