A crowdfunding campaign supporting the legal defense fund for former Marine Daniel Penny, who was charged in the death of a homeless man on the New York City subway, has surged to more than $1.5 million in a few days.
His lawyers, Thomas Kenniff and Steven Kaiser, launched the campaign on the crowdfunding site GiveSendGo last week, saying that Penny was only “protecting individuals” on a subway train from what they described as an assailant, who later died. Penny, 24, was arraigned Friday on one count of second-degree manslaughter for allegedly fatally choking 30-year-old Jordan Neely.
According to prosecutors, they said that Neely—who has a lengthy criminal history and was described as homeless—was “making threats and scaring passengers.” In New York state, a conviction for second-degree manslaughter can result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
“Funds are being raised to pay Mr. Penny’s legal fees incurred from any criminal charges filed and any future civil lawsuits that may arise, as well as expenses related to his defense,” said the crowdfunding page for Penny.
“All contributions are greatly appreciated. Any proceeds collected which exceed those necessary to cover Mr. Penny’s legal defense will be donated to a mental health advocacy program in New York City.”
In response to the fundraising, “The outpouring of generosity and support for Daniel Penny is beyond anything we could have imagined,” Kenniff told Fox News. “Daniel is incredibly grateful for the support of so many New Yorkers.”
The fundraiser was boosted by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is reportedly looking to run for president, on Twitter.
In the incident, a witness, who wished to remain anonymous, told the New York Post that Neely appeared to be having a mental episode and started ranting wildly while on the northbound F subway train on May 1.
“He said, ‘I don’t care. I’ll take a bullet, I’ll go to jail’ because he would kill people on the train,” a 66-year-old woman said, referring to what Neely said.
“He said, ‘I would kill a [expletive]. I don’t care. I’ll take a bullet. I’ll go to jail.’”
Penny did not initially engage Neely, she said. He only got involved when the situation got out of hand, she added.
The woman told the paper that after the incident, she went back to “thank” Penny. “I hope he has a great lawyer, and I’m praying for him,” the woman said last week. “And I pray that he gets treated fairly, I really do. Because after all of this ensued, I went back and made sure that I said ‘Thank you’ to him.”
She added: “This gentleman, Mr. Penny, did not stand up. … did not engage with the gentleman. He said not a word. It was all Mr. Neely that was … threatening the passengers. If he did not get what he wants.”
“Gonna go to jail for life’? What? What penalties involve going to jail for life?” she asked. “Could you tell me? Yeah, it’s not kicking somebody in the shin, or punching somebody in the face.”
Similar comments were left on the GiveSendGo fundraiser, with a number of donors saying that Penny didn’t do anything wrong and was defending himself.
Late last week, Penny surrendered to police to face the manslaughter charge. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg confirmed days before Penny will be arrested on a charge of second-degree manslaughter in the case.
“We cannot provide any additional information until he has been arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court, which we expect to take place tomorrow,” Bragg stated Thursday.
Last week, the law firm alleged in a statement that their 24-year-old client was acting in self-defense when he held Neely in a chokehold on the F train on May 1, which allegedly caused him to die of compression of the neck, according to the medical examiner.
The attorneys also alleged that their client did not mean to kill Neely, a 30-year-old man whose friends say suffered from worsening mental health. They added Neely had been behaving aggressively toward other passengers on the subway and Penny stepped in to do what he thought was right and seemed reasonable.
Witnesses reported that Neely was complaining loudly, allegedly shouting, “I want food,” “I’m not taking no for an answer,” “I’m ready to go back to jail,” and “I’ll hurt anyone on this train.” They also reported that he had harassed passengers for years.
Neely has a lengthy criminal record that includes dozens of prior arrests and also had a warrant out for his arrest related to a felony assault at the time of his death.
Meanwhile, video footage has emerged online showing Penny and another man who helped to restrain him rendering aid by placing Neely into a “recovery position” after he fell unconscious. The video also shows Neely was still alive after Penny released him from the chokehold.