MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- The Marine veteran charged with choking a homeless man to death on a Manhattan subway has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Daniel Penny was arraigned on the charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Penny, 24, was recorded on cellphone video holding Neely in a chokehold on an F-Train for several minutes on May 1.
Prosecutors recovered at least five cellphone videos from three witnesses to the chokehold, as well as two surveillance videos from MTA cameras, taken the day before and the day of Neely's death, court documents revealed.
Penny was initially arrested on manslaughter charges, but a grand jury decided there was enough evidence to show he may have gone too far.
"The grand jury evaluated the evidence under the direction of the district attorney's office, we really weren't privy to what happened there so we can't speak to why they did what they did or why they decided on the charges that they decided on," said Steven Raiser, defense attorney.
According to court documents released, Penny told responding officers at the Broadway-Lafayette station,
"I just put him out. I just put him in a chokehold. He came on and he threw shit, he's like I don't give a *expletive*, I'm going to go to prison for life and stuff, so I just came up behind him and put him in a chokehold. He was threatening everybody.
"He came on, threw all his *expletive* down, was very aggressive, going crazy. I was behind him, put him in a choke.
"The guy came in, he threw *expletive*, he's like I'm ready to go to prison for life, I'm ready to die, I'm ready to die, and I was standing behind him. I think I might have just put him in a choke, put him down. We just went to the ground. He was trying to roll up, I had him pretty good, I was in the Marine Corps. My phone number is *redacted*.
"He was rolling, he was rolling, when he was in a choke he was going crazy. He came on, threw *expletive*, was like I'm going to go to prison forever.
"A man was acting irate, dropping things on the floor, saying he doesn't care if he goes to jail, he doesn't care if he gets killed or does. He was pacing back and forth on the car, I came from behind and put him in a chokehold. People in the subway were afraid for their safety."
Some activists, including Reverend Al Sharpton, say the charges are not enough. He says prosecutors should have sought a murder charge.
Penny was indicted by a grand jury in connection with Jordan Neely's death on June 14.
Neely's death was ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.
Penny's attorneys argue he was trying to defend himself and passengers when Neely allegedly started acting erratically on an F train last month.
A video was released of Penny defending his actions.
"Some people say I was trying to choke him to death, which is also not true. I was trying to restrain him. You can see in the video there is a clear rise and fall of his chest, indicating that he is breathing. I'm trying to restrain him from him trying to carry out the threats," Penny said in the video.
Mass demonstrations erupted across the city after video of the subway chokehold was posted online.
Last week, the Manhattan District Attorney declined to prosecute those charged with misdemeanors from the protests. The other men in the subway chokehold video, who are restraining Neely with Penny, have not been charged.
Only Penny, who administered the deadly chokehold, is facing consequences.
Following the arraignment outside the court, Penny's defense attorneys spoke confidently about their client's ability to be found not guilty.
"We are a long way off from trial, but all the evidence we have seen so far, all the evidence we expect to see, shows that Danny acted reasonably under very difficult circumstances in a confined environment that none of us would ever want to find ourselves in," defense attorney Thomas Keniff said. "It's confidence in the legal system. I've been trying cases in Manhattan for quite some time. Confidence in the law, confidence that our client acted within the confines of the law in this case."
"Actually, the fact that it is a Manhattan jury is obviously very good for us, for the defense, because Manhattan juries tend to take the subways and they understand what it is like to be on a subway, what it is like to be confined underground, what it is like to not be able to leave when faced with a threat," Raiser said. "So it is a very positive thing that we are able to go to the people here in Manhattan and ask them to render a verdict on this case because they understand what it is like to be in the situation Danny was in, at least as to the physical confinement in the area."
Neely's family and supporters denounced Penny and expressed their hope for justice.
"Daniel Penny did not have the courage to look Mr Jordan's father in the eye," attorney Dante Mills said.
Penny is free on $100,000 bail. His next court appearance is set for October 25.
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