Manhattan DA Responds to Mounting Pressure Over Subway Chokehold Death

Sources have said the Manhattan district attorney's office could take grand jury action this week -- and Alvin Bragg says not to read much into his silence in the meantime

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What to Know

  • 30-year-old Jordan Neely died on a train at the Broadway-Lafayette station in Manhattan on May 1 after allegedly threatening passengers and being put into a chokehold by a rider; that rider, identified as 24-year-old Daniel Penny, was questioned by the NYPD and later released from custody
  • The medical examiner's office ruled Neely's death a homicide the next day, which incited a debate around whether the rider's actions were justified defense or vigilantism; the Manhattan district attorney's office has said it is looking into the case
  • Multiple protests have taken place in Manhattan since Neely's death and dozens arrested; the Manhattan district attorney's office has said it is looking into the matter

Silence may be deafening, but it doesn't mean "do nothing." That's the latest message from the Manhattan district attorney, as his office weighs potential criminal charges in the subway chokehold that has gained national attention.

It's been 10 days since Neely, 30, died on the floor of an F train car after being put in a chokehold at the Broadway-Lafayette station on a Monday afternoon. The circumstances remain under investigation. Witnesses had reported Neely, a homeless man with a lengthy record, was aggressive toward other riders. They also reported Neely hadn't physically attacked anyone before a 24-year-old former Marine, Daniel Penny, moved to forcibly subdue him.

Penny was taken into custody by the NYPD for questioning and later released. The next day, the medical examiner's office ruled Neely's death a homicide, igniting a firestorm of debate over self-defense vs. vigilantism. Also came a series of protests across a city wearied by too many deaths, however unrelated, of Black men at white men's hands.

Officially, Bragg's office has been tight-lipped on the case, saying only that it has assigned seasoned, experienced prosecutors to conduct an investigation. Sources say there could be grand jury action this week. In the meantime, Bragg urged late Wednesday that people not read much into his apparent silence.

"I think sometimes people peer into the silence and look at that as if the office isn't doing anything right," Bragg said. "It's not important. It's quite the contrary."

Two sources familiar with the matter say the Manhattan DA's office may present the case to a grand jury as soon as this week. News 4's Andrew Siff reports.

Earlier that day, Mayor Eric Adams, who had been accused by some of not weighing in substantially enough, formally addressed Neely's death in a public address on Wednesday.

The Democrat forcefully declared Neely "shouldn't have died" -- while carefully towing a line between acknowledging the loss, and the ensuing tensions, and appearing to ascribe any sort of responsibility.

"One of our own is dead," Adams said, empathizing with the emotional intensity coursing through the city over the case. "A Black man, Black like me -- a man named Jordan, the name I gave my son, a New Yorker who struggled with tragedy, trauma and mental illness, a man whose last words were to cry for help, a man named Jordan Neely."

Attorneys for Penny have said the young man never intended to kill Neely and "could not have foreseen" that his efforts to mitigate a perceived public threat would turn deadly. Neely's family has called that an "admission of guilt."

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