“We’ve got your back:” Marine veteran’s defense fund reaches a significant milestone

Daniel Penny (GiveSendGo/Twitter)

Update: On Monday morning an online crowdfunding campaign set up by attorneys for Marine veteran Daniel Penny has received 40,000 donations, totaling $ 1.9 million.

Larry McShane
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — An online defense fund to cover legal costs for accused subway chokehold suspect Daniel Penny climbed above the $1.2 million mark Saturday with pledges from thousands of donors.

Lawyers for the ex-Marine charged in the May 1 killing of homeless victim Jordan Neely aboard an F train beneath Manhattan started the campaign for their client, with more than 20,000 people contributing.

“They should donate more for his defense,” said Queens mechanic Steven Sonego. “The poor guy was trying to help.”

One anonymous donor pledged a $10,000 gift, while most offered far more modest financial support for the man facing charges of second-degree manslaughter in Neely’s death.

“Don’t give up or give in. God bless you. The world is pulling for you!” wrote one $50 supporter.

A second $50 backer expressed similar support for Penny: “Thank you for serving our country and thank you for serving the citizens on that subway. You stepped up to the call of duty in both cases and justice will be served.”

Penny, 24, remained free Saturday on $100,000 bond after surrendering to police Friday and making his initial court appearance. He had turned himself in four hours earlier at the Fifth Precinct in Chinatown, emerging a short time later in handcuffs.

A message left Saturday for comment from defense attorney Thomas Kenniff on the defense donations was not returned.

But the fund-raising site said the money collected would cover Penny’s legal fees in the criminal case, any future civil lawsuits and expenses related to his defense.

Upper West Side building concierge Raymond Garcia said he was conflicted about the case.

“I’m in the middle,” he said. “He served his country and his intention was not to hurt the man, but he held him too long. He probably had good intentions, but come on.”

Penny, 24, has yet to comment about the deadly and polarizing confrontation with the mentally ill Black man inside a subway car beneath Manhattan. Neely 30, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

The defendant, wearing a black suit and white shirt, ignored shouted questions from reporters Friday as he was walked into a waiting NYPD vehicle for the ride from the precinct to the Lower Manhattan courthouse.

The caught-on-video struggle between Penny and the victim sparked outrage after going public, with the now-defendant initially questioned by police and released after the incident.

But the critical outcry continued as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg investigated the case before Penny was arrested 11 days after the death.

The case will go before a grand jury, with Penny ordered Friday to surrender his passport and to remain in New York unless granted approval to leave by authorities.

Neely’s father told the Daily News that his son moved out of their Bronx apartment four years ago, the last time he ever laid eye on the victim. Over the past decade, the one-time Michael Jackson impersonator was arrested 42 times as he struggled with mental health issues.

The two men crossed paths for the first and final time on the subway beneath Manhattan, with Neely ranting inside the train as he threw garbage at other straphangers before things escalated.

Donte Mills, a lawyer for the victim’s family, insisted Friday as Penny appeared in court that nothing had occurred to provoke the deadly escalation of the dispute.

“Mr. Neely, he did not attack anybody,” said Mills. “He did not hit anybody. But he was choked to death and that cannot stand.”

According to the fund-raising website, any proceeds collected beyond those needed for the 24-year-old’s legal defense will be donated to a mental health advocacy program in New York City.

“Attacking this hero is a travesty of Justice,” wrote another Penny supporter pledging $10. “New York and the United States should be ashamed.”


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