Jordan Neely homicide | Defense fund for Daniel Penny swells to 10 times the funeral costs raised for man he choked

Daniel Penny arrested for manslaughter of Jordan Neely
Daniel Penny in cuffs on May 12.
Photo by Dean Moses

The fundraiser for Jordan Neely’s funeral is just a fraction of the money raised for the legal defense of the man accused of choking him to death, Daniel Penny, earlier this month.

Neely, a homeless Michael Jackson impersonator, died on May 1 after Penny, a former Marine, placed him in a chokehold during a confrontation on board an F train in Lower Manhattan; the violent incident was captured on video and quickly went viral. Penny, however, was not immediately charged after the choke, and some proclaimed him a hero because he allegedly put the chokehold on after Neely reportedly became disruptive.

In the wake of Penny’s arrest Friday on first-degree manslaughter, his attorneys Raiser & Kenniff, P.C. — with help from right-wing politicians and social media personalities — have raised $1.6 million for his legal defense as of Sunday morning, May 14. By contrast, a fundraiser organized by Jordan Neely’s aunt, Carolyn Neely, to pay for her nephew’s funeral and burial has failed to match Penny’s defense, and has reached just $105,258.

Penny’s online defense fund surpassed the $1.5 million mark Sunday after thousands of donors not only offered money but also left messages calling Penny a “hero.”

“You did what we all should do and stood up for others, at great cost to yourself. You are an American hero,” said one donor identified as Beth, Nick and Rhomas.

“Thank you for serving our country and for protecting the other subway riders (and yourself) from an obviously disturbed and unpredictable person,” added another donor, Lauren MM NY. “I hope that all the witnesses come forward to back you up!”

This hasn’t sat well with those who believe Penny went too far in the viral video — with some drawing comparisons to Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois man acquitted of fatally shooting two protesters in Kenosha, WI in the summer of 2020.

Daniel Penny supporters outside of 100 Centre Street. Photo by Dean Moses

“These right-wing lunatics have donated over $1.1 MILLION to Daniel Penny’s defense fund! First, it was Kyle Rittenhouse, now it’s this clown. I sure hope I don’t get choked to death by a fellow Veteran in public for throwing trash and having a mental health episode,” Twitter user Ryan Shead said. 

“Daniel Penny’s legal defense fund has reached $1M. I’m sick,” another user wrote.

“Yup. Daniel Penny’s defense fund has raised over $1.5 million. How many homeless people could be fed with that money?” Danny Rubin pondered.

Jordan Neely
Jordan Neely, a Michael Jackson impersonator who was homeless, died on May 1, 2023 after being choked on the F train in Manhattan.GoFundMe/Carolyn Neely

The death of Neely and subsequent arrest of Penny has been galvanized into the newest theater of operations in the never-ending political battle between the left and right, with even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis weighing in.

In a tweet boosting Neely’s defense fund, the 2024 Republican professional hopeful seemed to ironically call Penny a “good Samaritan” — the biblical parable in which a stranger saves the life of a beaten man.

DeSantis also took a shot at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, using an alleged, unproven tie to European financier and Republican bogeyman George Soros echoed by many Republicans who slammed the Manhattan grand jury indictment against former President Donald Trump.

“We must defeat the Soros-Funded DAs, stop the Left’s pro-criminal agenda, and take back the streets for law abiding citizens,” DeSantis tweeted..

Penny was released on $100,000 bail after turning himself into the 5th Precinct and being arraigned in criminal court on May 12.

Neely’s funeral, meanwhile, is expected to take place in Harlem on May 19; the eulogy will reportedly be given by Reverend Al Sharpton. 

Jordan Neely supporters in City Hall park. Photo by Dean Moses