Daniel Penny, the Marine veteran who has been charged with killing 30-year-old Jordan Neely with a chokehold on a New York City subway car on May 1, was indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday, the attorney for Neely’s family told CBS New York. Penny’s attorneys said in a statement that they will “aggressively defend” him when the case goes to trial.
A law enforcement source also confirmed Penny’s indictment to CBS News.
Penny, 24, was originally charged with second degree manslaughter in May, and released on bail.
Penny maintains that Neely was behaving erratically on the train and threatening to kill fellow passengers when he moved to subdue him, according to video statements released by his attorneys. After the incident, Penny was initially questioned by police and released without being charged.
A statement released last monthhttps: by Penny’s attorneys said Neely had “a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness.” It also said Penny “never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”
In clips of a video interview released by his lawyers on Sunday, Penny described what he said led up to the chokehold, including alleged threats from Neely.
“The three main threats that he repeated over and over was, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ ‘I’m prepared to go to jail for life,’ and ‘I’m willing to die’ … I was scared for myself, but I looked around, I saw women and children. He was yelling in their faces, saying these threats,” Penny said.
Neely, who performed as a Michael Jackson impersonator, was homeless, and family members said he had struggled with mental health after losing his mother as a teen. At his funeral service on May 19, Rev. Al Sharpton said, “Jordan was screaming for help. We keep criminalizing people with mental illness.”
“Daniel Penny’s indictment is the right result for the wrong he committed,” Neely’s family said in a statement Wednesday. “The grand jury’s decision tells our city and our nation that ‘no one is above the law’ no matter how much money they raise, no matter what affiliations they claim, and no matter what distorted stories they tell in interviews.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the indictment when asked by CBS News.
Penny said he wasn’t trying to kill Neely when he grabbed him — but he couldn’t sit around while Neely ranted.
“There’s a common misconception that Marines don’t get scared. We’re actually taught one of our core values is courage, and courage is not the absence of fear but how you handle fear,” he said.“I was scared for myself but I looked around there was women and children, he was yelling in their faces saying these threats. I just couldn’t sit still.”
After the indictment, Sharpton released another statement saying the grand jury “saw right through [Penny’s] false narrative by voting to move this case forward.”“This was a clear-cut case of vigilantism that has no place in our society, which is why I spoke against it at Jordan’s funeral,” Sharpton said.
“While [the grand jury] should be saluted for this righteous step, we wish the charge would have reflected what this really was: murder,” Sharpton continued, adding that his National Action Network would “continue to monitor this case to ensure this killer is held accountable and there is justice for Jordan.