Legal fund for man charged in New York subway death tops US$1.6 m


NEW YORK – A crowdfunding effort supporting the man charged over the chokehold death of a homeless person in New York has raised more than US$1.6 million (S$2.14 million) on a platform known for facilitating funding of far-right figures.

The death earlier this month of Jordan Neely, a Michael Jackson impersonator who often performed on the subway, sparked outrage after it was caught on camera.

Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old US Marine veteran, was charged with manslaughter in the second degree and released on bail. The charge accuses Penny of “recklessly” causing the death of 30-year-old Neely, but it stops short of saying he had intent to kill.

The online fund supporting him was set up by the law firm Raiser & Kenniff, P.C., which is representing Penny.

It’s available on the crowdfunding site GiveSendGo, which bills itself as “The #1 Free Christian Fundraising Site.” GiveSendGo has drawn attention for allowing campaigns other crowdfunding sites have removed for violating their terms, particularly those run by alt-right and white supremacist groups.

Conservative Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – who has not officially declared a presidential bid but who is widely expected to run for the Republican nomination – threw his defense behind Penny on social media, calling to “stop the Left’s pro-criminal agenda, and take back the streets for law abiding citizens.”

“We stand with Good Samaritans like Daniel Penny. Let’s show this Marine… America’s got his back.”

Neely’s death on May 1 infuriated activists and many lawmakers, prompting several protests calling for the arrest of Penny.

The video showed Neely on the ground of a subway train as Penny is seen holding him around the neck for several minutes in front of a few onlookers.

Witnesses said Penny allegedly restrained Neely after the latter was screaming at passengers for food and drink and said he was willing to die.

Neely was reportedly not physically threatening anyone.

Family and friends told local media that he had a history of mental illness, like many living on the streets in the city of almost nine million residents. AFP