Alvin Bragg didn't trust a grand jury to indict Daniel Penny for the death of Jordan Neely

In New York City, everybody but the richest few percent rides the subway, and they know how bad things have gotten in the wake Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg treating arrests as inequitable since African Americans are disproportionately arrested.

Jordan Neely died in a hospital after being subdued by Marine Corps veteran Daniel Penny with the help of two other passengers (who have not been charged).

Uncredited photo via The New York Post

Neely “avoid[ed] prison for allegedly slugging a 67-year-old woman in November 2021 during a psychotic episode” by agreeing to a plea deal. Despite a record of more than forty previous arrests, he was allowed to roam the streets, though he was to stay at Harbor House, where he could receive services. When he left there, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ellen Biben signed a warrant for his arrest on February 23.

Perhaps because police officers realize that arresting any black person can cause enormous career grief, Neely evaded arrest, even while riding subways and being visible on the streets. The justice system, in other words, completely failed to protect the public from a deranged, violent man. So, when riding the subway on May first and threatening passengers with violence, and assaulting some by throwing trash, it was only Daniel Penny who first took action to protect himself and fellow passengers.

As Andrea Widburg noted in her excellent coverage of the incident:

it’s theoretically possible that a chokehold could have killed Neely. Except that we know from the full video, rather than the parts the media focused on, that once Neely stopped screaming and fighting, Penny put him in a recovery position. This is inconsistent with intending to kill a man or believing you have killed him. Several people involved (many of whom thanked Penny) were certain that Neely was alive—and, indeed, Neely was alive, dying only at the hospital:



When DA Bragg indicted Penny, he avoided taking the case to a grand jury. I suspect he realized that most members of a Manhattan grand jury are subway riders, and might have even experienced a situation of being threatened on a subway car while on their way to the courthouse. He had reason to believe that a grand jury would not have returned an indictment.

So, just as he did with “Jose Alba, the bodega clerk charged with murder for fatally stabbing an ex-con who was assaulting him in the grocery,” his office issued the indictment on its own. Alba was sent to Riker’s Island, a notoriously violent and unsafe jail, only to be released when the public uproar grew deafening.

Daniel Penny, perhaps because he is white, has so far only been publicly excoriated by “activists” as probably racist, simply because he was a white man subduing a black man who died later. The vast majority of New Yorkers who will make up the jury pool for his trial, most of whom are fellow subway riders, are remaining silent. Literally, a silent majority.

I am afraid it will take a jury trial for Penny to receive justice for his heroic acts that ended badly for the offender. He will need capable (and expensive) counsel.

You can contribute to Daniel Penny's legal defense fund here.

I’d like to see Bragg repeat what he did in the case of Jose Alba and simply drop the charges because of the obvious injustice or prosecuting an act of self-defense. Large demonstrations might help convince him, but so far, they have not taken place. Unless the silent majority wakes up and realizes it has to encourage, not punish good Samaritans who protect fellow passengers from scary and violent lunatics, the city and its transportation system will only get scarier and more hazardous. 

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