Penny enters not guilty plea in new chokehold death charge

Penny enters not guilty plea in new chokehold death charge

Daniel Penny

Penny enters not guilty plea in new chokehold death charge

A U.S. Marine veteran pleaded not guilty Wednesday to revised charges in the fatal chokehold of a man who was behaving erratically on a New York City subway train.

Daniel Penny, 24, pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the May 1 death of Jordan Neely, a former Michael Jackson impersonator who 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, which was recorded by a bystander.

The arraignment lasted mere minutes. Penny, who is free on bond, only uttered the words “not guilty” before he left the courtroom with his lawyers.

Penny was initially arrested on the manslaughter charge in May, but a grand jury earlier this month added the negligent homicide count, potentially giving a trial jury the option of finding him guilty of the lesser charge.

To get a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors would have to prove Penny recklessly caused Neely's death while being aware of the risk of serious harm. It could carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years. A conviction for criminally negligent homicide would require the jury to find that Penny unjustifiably put Neely at risk of death, but failed to perceive that risk. The maximum penalty would be four years in prison.

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.

“He was yelling in their faces saying these threats,” Penny said in a video released by his attorneys. “I just couldn’t sit still.”

Neely's family members and their supporters have said Neely, who struggled with mental illness and homelessness, was crying out for help and was met with violence.