Daniel Penny enters not guilty plea in Jordan Neely’s NY subway chokehold death.
A former US Marine has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges after putting a homeless man in a fatal chokehold on a New York City subway train.
Daniel Penny, 24, was charged with second-degree manslaughter and negligent homicide in court on Wednesday.
According to witnesses, Jordan Neely, 30, was yelling at other metro riders and demanding for money on May 1 when Mr Penny pinned him down for several minutes.
Protests and counter-protests erupted in response to video of the altercation.
If convicted of manslaughter, Mr Penny faces up to 15 years in prison. On May 12, he was detained and released on $100,000 (£80,000) bail.
His attorneys said he had no idea his attempts to subdue Mr Neely, a homeless street performer with a history of mental illness, would result in his death.
What became of Jordan Neely? Who exactly is Daniel Penny?
In the encounter on a southbound F train subway vehicle in Manhattan, Mr Penny said he was acting in self-defense.
Witnesses stated Mr Neely was screaming about how hungry he was and how he was eager to go back to jail or die, albeit there is no evidence he physically harmed anyone.
Bystanders videotaped the incident, and a freelance journalist on the train captured Mr Penny clutching Mr Neely around the neck for two minutes and 55 seconds.
Prosecutors claim he continued to restrain Mr Neely even after he stopped moving.
Emergency personnel attempted to resuscitate him before transporting him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The city medical examiner determined his death a murder because of compression of the neck.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement on Wednesday that he hopes the Neely family is “on the path to healing as they continue to mourn this tragic loss.”
Mr Penny did not speak to media when he entered the Manhattan courtroom for the brief hearing on Wednesday.
Mr Penny addressed the incident on social media earlier this month, saying he had no intention of killing Mr Neely.
“I was scared for myself, but when I looked around, there were women and children, and he was yelling in their faces, threatening them.” “I couldn’t sit still,” he explained.
Outside the courtroom, Mr Penny’s attorneys expressed confident that he will be found not guilty in the end.
“There isn’t a living, breathing soul in Manhattan who hasn’t experienced a variation of what not only Mr Penny but other individuals experienced on that subway car,” said lawyer Thomas Keniff.
The defendant was summoned to court on October 25 for a pre-trial hearing.
Mr. Neely was a Michael Jackson impersonator who performed frequently in Times Square.
According to US media accounts, he was arrested 42 times on accusations such as avoiding fares, stealing, and assaults on three women.
Mr Neely began having mental health problems when his mother was murdered by her boyfriend in 2007, according to his aunt, Carolyn Neely, who spoke to the New York Post last month.
Mr. Neely’s previous offenses, according to New York Mayor Eric Adams, show the need to strengthen the city’s mental health system.
The issue has become politically contentious, with conservatives applauding Mr Penny as a hero, including Florida Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.
His adversaries, including US civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, have compared Mr Penny to Bernard Goetz, a white man who shot dead four black men on a New York subway in 1984.
Mr Penny’s fans have raised around $3 million (£2.37 million) for his legal defense.
“For everyone who thought donating $3 million would somehow make this go away or buy his pass: It’s not going to happen,” Neely family attorney Donte Mills said on Wednesday. You may request a refund.”