Michael Jackson Impersonator Killed on Subway: Protests and Charges Follow

On May 1, 2023, Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old Michael Jackson impersonator who was on a special city watch list and considered a potential risk to himself and others, was killed by a subway passenger, Daniel Penny, who put him in a chokehold on the F train in Manhattan. According to witnesses, Neely had been yelling that he was hungry and thirsty, and that he didn’t care if he went to jail.[0] Penny is facing charges for second-degree manslaughter.[0] The city medical examiner later said that Neely died from a compression of the neck, but Penny’s lawyers said he did not mean to kill him.[1]

Neely, a homeless man with a lengthy criminal record and a history of mental illness, had been on a train at the Broadway-Lafayette station in SoHo, shouting at passengers and begging for food before Penny intervened.[2] Witnesses had reported Neely was aggressive toward other riders on the train, but had not physically attacked anyone before Penny moved to subdue him.[3] The Manhattan district attorney's office announced it would be charging Penny with manslaughter and he surrendered to police on Friday morning.[4]

Penny, a 24-year-old US Marine veteran, appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court to be arraigned on one count of second-degree manslaughter on Friday, just hours after turning himself in at a police station.[1] If convicted of manslaughter, Penny could face a minimum of three-and-a-half years in prison, and as much as 15 years behind bars.[5] On Friday's court appearance, he was released on a $100,000 bond without entering a plea.[2] It is mandatory for him to hand over his passport and obtain permission before traveling outside of New York state.[2] July was marked as the date for his upcoming court appearance.[2]

Neely's death has ignited protests and calls for Penny’s arrest while refocusing attention on struggles with homelessness and mental illness across America.[6] Neely's family's attorneys have condemned Penny’s actions and called his characterizations of Neely a “character assassination.” Many New Yorkers are angry and in mourning.[7] Roughly 50 protesters chanted Neely’s name at the subway station where he died, with flowers on the pavement, and someone had scrawled “Who killed Jordan Neely?” on the tiled wall.[8] Over the weekend, protests persisted as demonstrators marched across Manhattan and obstructed the subway tracks at the Lexington Avenue–63rd Street subway station.[8] No less than three demonstrators were taken into custody.[8]

Neely's father remembered showing him the Jackson 5 on TV and said his son was “great” at emulating the singer.[8] Neely at one point busked in the subway as a Michael Jackson impersonator, and performing gave him confidence and likely helped him cope with mental-health issues.[9] However, Neely was also arrested 42 times over the past decade, including punching a female train passenger, 67, in the face in November 2021.[10]

Donte Mills, a lawyer for Neely’s family, said the 30-year-old wasn’t harming anyone.[1] During a news conference on Friday, Mills stated that there had been no attack.[1] “Mr.[11] There was no attack made by Neely.[1] He refrained from physically contacting anyone. No one was hit by him. But he was choked to death.” Mills added that “Mr.[1][11]

0. “‘It’s a failure of the system’: before Jordan Neely was killed, he was discarded” The Guardian US, 12 May. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/may/12/jordan-neely-new-york-social-services-support-mental-health

1. “US man charged in New York City subway chokehold death” Al Jazeera English, 12 May. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/12/us-man-surrenders-in-new-york-city-subway-chokehold-death

2. “Daniel Penny, accused in Jordan Neely subway chokehold death, out on bail” CBS News, 12 May. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/daniel-penny-surrenders-jordan-neely-subway-chokehold-death-manslaughter-charge

3. “Jordan Neely Had Demons, But ‘He Didn't Attack Anyone – and He Was Choked to Death,' Family Says” NBC New York, 12 May. 2023, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/subway-chokehold-jordan-neely-family-speaks-after-daniel-penny-arrest/4328471/

4. “Daniel Penny's lawyers crowdfund defense on site used to raise money for Jan. 6 defendants” Gothamist, 12 May. 2023, https://gothamist.com/news/daniel-pennys-lawyers-crowdfunding-on-a-site-thats-supported-divisive-conservative-causes

5. “Jordan Neely's family say New Yorkers should offer to help erratic homeless people on trains” Daily Mail, 12 May. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12077655/Jordan-Neelys-family-say-New-Yorkers-offer-help-erratic-homeless-people-trains.html

6. “‘Jordan Neely did not deserve to die,’ New York mayor says as he calls for revamped mental health services – and sidesteps talk of homicide investigation” CNN, 10 May. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/10/us/jordan-neely-eric-adams-nyc/index.html

7. “Daniel Penny, man accused in deadly F train chokehold, arraigned on manslaughter charge” Gothamist, 12 May. 2023, https://gothamist.com/news/daniel-penny-arraigned-on-manslaughter-charge

8. “Jordan Neely's Death: What We Know” The Cut, 12 May. 2023, https://www.thecut.com/article/jordan-neelys-death-what-we-know.html

9. “Ex-Marine charged with New York subway chokehold death of Jordan Neely” BBC, 12 May. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-65573879

10. “Report: Man Who Fatally Choked Jordan Neely To Be Charged” BET, 11 May. 2023, https://www.bet.com/article/au4hc4/jordan-neely-chokehold-death-daniel-penny-charges

11. “Jordan Neely Case: Former Marine, Ex-West Islip HS Athlete Charged In Killing Sparking Protests” Daily Voice, 11 May. 2023, https://dailyvoice.com/new-york/suffolk/jordan-neely-case-former-marine-ex-west-islip-hs-athlete-charged-in-killing-sparking-protests/