Manhattan Subway Passenger Charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter in Chokehold Death of Michael Jackson Impersonator with Mental Illness and Homelessness
Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old man from Manhattan, was killed on May 1, 2023, by a subway passenger, Daniel Penny, who put him in a chokehold. According to eyewitnesses, Neely had been yelling that he was hungry and thirsty and that he didn't care if he went to jail. Penny, a 24-year-old US Marine veteran, will be charged with second-degree manslaughter. A viral video showed Penny putting Neely in a chokehold while they rode on the F train in Manhattan. Neely died from a compression of the neck, according to the medical examiner. Penny's lawyers said he did not mean to kill him.
Neely had been on a special city watch list, considered a potential risk to himself and others, due to his history of mental illness and homelessness. Witnesses had reported Neely was aggressive toward other riders on the train, shouting at passengers and begging for food. However, they also said he hadn't physically attacked anyone before Penny moved to subdue him.
Penny will be charged with manslaughter in the second degree, which applies when someone is accused of recklessly causing the death of another person in New York state. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison. During his court appearance, he didn't enter a plea and was released on $100,000 bond. He's required to surrender his passport and can't leave New York state without approval. His next court date is scheduled for July.
Frequently performing in Times Square, Neely was an impersonator of Michael Jackson. He had a history of mental illness and had been arrested 42 times over the past decade, including punching a female train passenger in the face in November 2021. Despite his criminal record, Neely's family and friends remembered him as a talented performer who loved to entertain.
The incident has ignited protests and calls for Penny's arrest while refocusing attention on struggles with homelessness and mental illness across America. Many New Yorkers are angry and in mourning, with roughly 50 protesters chanting Neely's name at the subway station where he died. Throughout the weekend, protests persisted as marchers made their way through Manhattan. At a certain juncture, they obstructed the subway tracks at the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street subway station. A minimum of three demonstrators were taken into custody.
Attorneys representing Neely's family have condemned Penny's actions and called his characterizations of Neely a “character assassination.” The Manhattan District Attorney's Office decided to charge Penny without presenting the case to a grand jury at this time, according to WNBC. The decision to charge him was made by the district attorney's office in consultation with the NYPD.
In conclusion, the death of Jordan Neely has brought attention to the struggles of homelessness and mental illness across America. It raises questions about how society can better support those who are vulnerable and prevent tragic incidents like this from happening in the future. The case also highlights the need for police officers and other authority figures to be trained in handling situations involving mental health issues and to use non-lethal force whenever possible. As the case proceeds, it will be important to continue to monitor the developments and advocate for justice and reform.
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