The Marine veteran who was seen in a video putting Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on a New York City subway was arraigned Friday on a second-degree manslaughter charge that Neely’s family suggested was too lenient.
“Is that enough for someone who choked somebody out on the train and took their life?” attorney Lennon Edwards asked at a news conference Friday afternoon hours after Daniel Penny turned himself in at the 5th Precinct stationhouse in Manhattan.
Edwards said Neely's family wanted Penny charged with murder because he could have chosen any other technique but “intentionally chose a technique to use that is designed to cut off air.”
“That’s a choice that he made and he did it intentionally. So we believe that the conviction should be for murder because that’s intentional," he told reporters.
Officials have not said how they settled on the manslaughter charge.
"After an evaluation of the available facts and evidence, the Manhattan D.A.’s Office determined there was probable cause to arrest Daniel Penny and arraign him on felony charges," District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.
He added the investigation included interviews with witnesses, a careful review of photo and video footage and discussions with the medical examiner's office.
"Jordan Neely should still be alive today, and my thoughts continue to be with his family and loved ones as they mourn his loss during this extremely painful time," Bragg said.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said the office was serving a notice to have the case presented to a grand jury.
Thomas Kenniff, an attorney for Penny, said earlier Friday that his client voluntarily turned himself in just after 8 a.m. ET "with the sort of dignity and integrity that is characteristic of his history of service to this grateful nation."
Penny, 24, left the precinct in handcuffs and was escorted to a waiting car that took him to the Manhattan criminal courthouse. He did not respond to reporters’ questions.
Penny entered the court surrounded by detectives and dressed in a gray suit, white shirt and a mask.
During the proceeding, the judge asked him if he waived extradition and he said, "yes."
Bail was set at $100,000 during his arraignment. Penny put up $6,000 and his parents guaranteed the entire bond. He was freed pending trial.
On his way out, Penny was surrounded by his defense team and detectives, and several people reached to shake his hand.
Cellphone video partly captured the May 1 incident on a northbound F train. It showed Penny on the ground holding Neely, 30, in a chokehold after an altercation.
Neely was unconscious when officers arrived and pronounced dead at the hospital, police said. The city medical examiner’s office said he died of “compression of neck (chokehold)” and that the manner was homicide.
Penny was briefly taken into custody after the incident and released.
Juan Alberto Vazquez, a witness who filmed the cellphone footage, told NBC New York that Neely got on the train and “began to say a somewhat aggressive speech, saying he was hungry, he was thirsty, that he didn’t care about anything, he didn’t care about going to jail, he didn’t care that he gets a big life sentence.” Neely was homeless and described as a subway busker who performed dance routines in costume as Michael Jackson.
Neely was held in the chokehold for about 15 minutes, Vazquez said. The video showed two other subway riders appearing to help restrain him.
Penny’s lawyers also said that Neely was “aggressively threatening” passengers and Penny never intended to harm him. Neely’s family, however, rejected that account.
“It is a character assassination and a clear example of why he believed he was entitled to take Jordan‘s life,” their attorneys previously said.
On Friday, attorney Donte Mills questioned why no one on the train helped Neely, who he said suffered from mental illness as a result of his mother's murder.
"No one on that train asked Jordan, 'What's wrong? How can I help you?' He was choked to death instead," he said. "Don’t take someone’s loved one from them because they’re in a bad place.”
A police spokesman said that multiple 911 calls came in about a physical fight and that Neely and Penny were involved in a "verbal dispute" that "escalated into a physical altercation."
"During the physical struggle between the two males, the 30-year-old male lost consciousness," the spokesman previously said.
Neely's death sparked a national debate, with people denouncing vigilantism and some politicians demanding officials do more to address homelessness, mental health and violence on subways.
In a statement on Friday, the Rev. Al Sharpton urged the justice system to send "a clear, loud message that vigilantism has never been acceptable."
"Being homeless or Black or having a mental health episode should not be a death sentence," he said, calling the charges against Penny "step one in justice."
Sharpton, the host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” is expected to deliver the eulogy at Neely's funeral next Friday in Harlem.
Penny's next court date is scheduled for July 17.