Daniel Penny is not going quietly to the slaughter. The 24-year-old Marine Corps veteran who took action when fellow subway passengers were being threatened by a maniacal homeless person has lawyered up and will need all the legal help he can get if he hopes to avoid spending decades in prison.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has assigned Joshua Steinglass, a veteran prosecutor who led the trial team in the case that prosecuted former President Donald Trump’s family business, to conduct the probe that will determine whether Penny will be put on trial for killing Jordan Neely. But the decision won’t be made in a vacuum. The liberal commentariat is already damning Penny as the civilian version of Derek Chauvin. Leftist politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., are accusing him of having committed a “murder” and Democrat and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is saying Penny’s actions were unjustified and demanding that “justice” be given Neely’s family.
Neely, the 30-year-old homeless person who died during an incident on a New York City subway train on May 1, had a record of mental illness. He had been arrested 44 times for criminal conduct and had an outstanding warrant for felony assault. On an F train stopped at the Broadway-Lafayette Street subway station in Manhattan, he allegedly began acting in a threatening manner to other passengers. It was at that point that Penny restrained him and put him in what appears on a cell phone video of part of the incident to be a chokehold.
In doing so, it could well be argued that he prevented Neely from committing another crime against a fellow passenger. Video released Sunday also seems to show Penny put Neely in a recovery position after Neely was subdued and appeared to be OK.
But the reason this case is already a cause celebre, leading to leftist demonstrations in the subways and an endless stream of articles in corporate media, is that Neely’s fate is blamed on the supposed indifference of the public to the lives of the homeless.
Broader Racial Ramifications
Penny’s fate will, as Peachy Keenan wrote in The Federalist, be a test of whether young American men should dare to act courageously when others are in peril. But there’s even more at stake in this case. With Neely being anointed as the new George Floyd, the questions of whether Penny was right to restrain Neely or if he used inappropriate force to do so are merely sidebars to a broader narrative about American racism.
Floyd’s death became a metaphor for a myth about systemic police racism. Floyd’s actions the night of his death, his criminal record, and the fact that his body was full of what might have been a lethal dose of fentanyl were dismissed as irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was that he was a black man and that the cop who had, in an act of undoubted callous brutality, snuffed out his life was white. In the name of a belief, however mistaken, that Floyd’s death was just one of countless incidents in which blacks were being slaughtered with impunity, millions took to the streets in “mostly peaceful” riots that shook the nation.
More than that, it set off a moral panic in virtually every sector of American life that elevated the woke catechism of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to a new secular religion — since accepted by the Biden administration as mandatory for every government agency and department — that treats color-blind policies and even the goal of equal opportunity as forms of racism that must be eradicated.
Parallels to 1984 Case
Penny’s actions might, for those with a long memory of controversial New York subway criminal controversies, have more in common with those of Bernhard Goetz than of Chauvin. In 1984, Goetz opened fire on four black teenagers he said were trying to mug him on a No. 2 train. In an era of rampant crime, Goetz was largely supported by public opinion and acquitted of attempted murder, though he was fined and sentenced to six months in prison for illegal weapons possession. One of the people he shot, who was paralyzed in the incident, later won a $43 million civil judgment against Goetz that, as late as 2017, still hadn’t been paid.
As racially charged as that incident was, nearly 40 years later, we are living in a very different post-Black Lives Matter world. Any New Yorker who rides the subways knows how dangerous they have been made by authorities’ willingness to tolerate the presence of threatening people. But someone who isn’t a “person of color” is always going to be assumed to be in the wrong in any violent confrontation today, when the claim that America is an irredeemably racist nation is treated as inarguable by the chattering classes.
The prosecutor in the Kyle Rittenhouse case told him that “everybody takes a beating sometimes” and that he had no right to defend himself against lethal threats from armed BLM rioters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Penny’s chances of winning a trial in a New York City courtroom in 2023 are immeasurably lower than were Goetz’s.
Leftist Campaign Against Justice
As such, and regardless of the facts of the case, the campaign against Penny must be viewed as merely the next stage in a long-running leftist campaign against the justice system in which pro-criminal prosecutors like Bragg, elected with the help of leftist billionaire George Soros, are in the forefront. The sympathy for Neely, which is framed as compassion for the homeless, is akin to the so-called decarceration movement that takes it as a given that too many nonwhite people are being jailed for crimes and calls to defund the police.
The prosecution of the ex-Marine will not just establish a precedent that there is a “right” of a deranged, drug-addicted person to terrorize others with impunity. It will also, like Floyd’s death or that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, or a dozen other equally dubious cases, be routinely cited from now on as proof of American racism and a reason for doubling down on woke policies that will further divide and racialize the nation.
Talk about our indifference to the lives of the homeless is gaslighting, since it is the policies of the political left that have allowed such persons to camp out on streets or in subway cars rather than be taken by police to shelters and hospitals. The freedom for the homeless that has been established in New York — where the “broken windows” policing of the administrations of Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg has been abandoned — means the rights of other citizens to a livable city are abrogated. When people like Neely can harass people into buying their safety with donations in honor of performances like his Michael Jackson imitations or violent rants, then the rule of law is dead.
Leftists believe that, like Floyd, Neely died for our sins as a racist nation. That is why he is now being elevated to the status of secular saint regardless of or perhaps even because of his dysfunction and willingness to threaten others. The Floyd case led to de-policing throughout the country as cops, the only defense minority communities have against the black-on-black crime that afflicts their neighborhoods, have backed down in the face of prosecutions and demonization.
Penny’s prosecution will now pump new life into the BLM movement and ensure that public discourse about race and crime will continue to ignore the facts in favor of ideological myths that will send America’s cities into even greater squalor, violence, and racial conflict.