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Daniel Penny indicted in subway chokehold death of Jordan Neely

Grand jury votes to indict Daniel Penny in Jordan Neely's death
Grand jury votes to indict Daniel Penny in Jordan Neely's death 02:40

NEW YORK -- CBS News confirmed Wednesday a Manhattan grand jury has indicted Daniel Penny in the death of Jordan Neely.

The indictment is still sealed, so we don't yet know what charges the grand jury voted to indict, but this comes after Penny was arrested for second-degree manslaughter in May.

The 24-year-old Marine veteran was recorded holding Neely in a chokehold on an F train back on May 1. He was arrested 11 days later and is currently out on bond.

"Now that you have an indictment, I think that further just shows we're gonna really say that Jordan Neely's life mattered. You cannot just choke someone to death and there be absolutely no consequences," Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said.

Neely was a 30-year-old subway performer who had been homeless and had a history of mental illness.

Penny initially told investigators that Neely was threatening passengers and acting erratically.

Police released Penny hours after Neely died, a decision which sparked weeks of protests.

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New York Law School Professor Anna Cominsky says the district attorney's case hinged on Wednesday's indictment.

"Now is really the beginning of this case. So initially, we were waiting to see whether or not the case would be presented to the grand jury, and if it was presented, whether or not the grand jurors would find reasonable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, and they have done that, so now this case will move forward," she said.

In a video released by his attorneys Sunday, Penny claims he was acting in self-defense and never meant to kill Neely.

"I was scared for myself, but I looked around, I saw women and children. He was yelling in their faces, saying these threats," Penny said. "I didn't want to be put in that situation, but I couldn't just sit still and let him carry out these threats."

The indictment does not necessarily mean he will be re-arrested, but he will likely have to be arraigned again.

If found guilty of the initial manslaughter charges, Penny would face up to 15 years in prison, but this indictment could contain more or less serious charges.

Attorneys for Neely's family released the following statement Wednesday:

"We believe in our criminal justice system and believe it worked today.

"Daniel Penny's indictment is the right result for the wrong he committed.

"The grand jury's decision tells our city and our nation that 'no one is above the law' no matter how much money they raise, no matter what affiliations they claim, and no matter what distorted stories they tell in interviews.  

"Bottom line -- at some point Mr. Penny should have let go before Jordan died. There is no excuse for choking anyone for that long. Any reasonable person knows choking someone for that long will kill them.

"Daniel Penny did not have the right to be the judge, jury and executioner.

"The fight is not over, but it took a lot of work to get to this place. The Neely family sends its sincerest thanks, especially to our courageous elected officials like AOC and others, every peaceful protester and all who still believe wrong actions should have consequences.  

"We will continue to fight on behalf of Jordan as this process moves forward."

Lawyers for Penny released the following statement:

"'While we respect the decision of the grand jury to move this case forward to trial, it should be noted that the standard of proof in a grand jury is very low and there has been no finding of wrongdoing. We're confident that when a trial jury is tasked with weighing the evidence, they will find Daniel Penny's actions on that train were fully justified,' Mr. Raiser said.  

"'We're all saddened at the loss of human life,' Mr. Kenniff said. 'Daniel Penny saw a genuine threat and took action to protect the lives of others.'

"The news of the indictment comes after Mr. Penny's recent publicly-released interview, in which he explained how Mr. Neely threatened to kill the men, women, and children on the subway car. Mr. Penny also explained that he never intended to kill Mr. Neely, only to hold him down until police arrived. The video was seen by tens of millions of people, with thousands of commenters describing Mr. Penny as a hero.

"Mr. Penny thanked the thousands of people who continue to donate to his legal defense fund, raising more than $2.8 million in just a few weeks. 'Americans are generous and the willingness of so many kind people to come to my defense amazes and comforts me,' Mr. Penny continued. 'Even more important than the donations have been the countless prayers, which mean the most to me.'

"'We always fight for our clients, but this case has taken on a special meaning at our firm. We are fully committed to defending Danny from those seeking to punish him for protecting others,' Mr. Kenniff said."

The Manhattan district attorney's office is declining to comment.

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