A US Marine Corps veteran pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the fatal strangulation of a man who was behaving erratically on a New York City subway train.

Daniel Penny, 24, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the May 1 death of Jordan Neely, a former Michael Jackson impersonator who was yelling and begging for money when Penny pinned him against the moving subway car floor. with the help of two other passengers and held him by strangling him for more than three minutes.

Neely, 30, lost consciousness during the struggle and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

A grand jury voted to indict Penny on updated charges earlier this month. Wednesday’s arraignment for the charges lasted just a few minutes. Penny, who is out on bail, only uttered the words «not guilty» before walking out of the courtroom with her lawyers.

Penny, who served in the Marine Corps for four years and was discharged in 2021, said he acted to protect himself and others from Neely, who yelled «I’m going to kill you» and said he was «ready to die.» or leave. to jail for life.

Daniel Penny leaves Manhattan Criminal Court following his arraignment, Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in New York.
Daniel Penny leaves Manhattan Criminal Court following his arraignment Wednesday. John Minchillo/AP

«I was screaming in their faces by saying these threats,» Penny said in a video released by her lawyers. «I just couldn’t sit still.»

Neely’s family members and supporters have said Neely, who was battling mental illness and homelessness, was crying out for help only to be met with violence.

“What happened to Jordan was a crime and this family should not have to be left alone,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said at Neely’s on May 19. funeral.

Neely’s death aboard an F train in Manhattan quickly became a flashpoint in the nation’s debates on racial justice and crime, with Republican politicians including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis praising Penny as a hero, while Sharpton and others likened the death of Neely, who was black, at the hands of Penny, who is white, to the 1984 subway shooting of four black men by Bernhard Goetz, a white man nicknamed the «subway watchman» who was ultimately acquitted of the shooting charges, except for carrying a weapon without a license.