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21 May, 2023 16:12

‘Subway killer’ Daniel Penny’s actions expose a gap in US law enforcement

Conservatives have converged to defend the ex-Marine charged with the killing of homeless man Jordan Neely on the New York subway
‘Subway killer’ Daniel Penny’s actions expose a gap in US law enforcement

In the pulsing underbelly of New York City, amidst the rhythmic thunder of subway cars, a drama as complex and multifaceted as the city itself has unfolded.

The protagonist, a man named Daniel Penny, has become the subject of a tumultuous national conversation. A former Marine, Penny now faces second-degree manslaughter charges following a subway altercation with Jordan Neely, a homeless man plagued by a disconcerting rap sheet.

This case transcends the boundaries of a Manhattan courtroom to delve into the tumultuous realm of public opinion, becoming a cipher for a country grappling with its very interpretation of justice.

The image of Daniel Penny, an unassuming ex-Marine with an (until recently) unblemished record, now adorns headlines nationwide. His life took an abrupt turn after a fateful encounter with Neely, whose long-standing criminal history includes violent assault and a chilling attempt at kidnapping a seven-year-old child. On that train, according to witness reports, Neely was acting in a hostile and erratic manner, telling riders that he was ready to hurt (even kill, according to some) someone, and willing to “take a bullet” or go to jail. Penny acted to subdue Neely, seeking to de-escalate a potentially volatile situation. The ex-Marine took Neely into a chokehold, which ultimately resulted in the latter’s death.

Penny's actions have cast him as a dual figure, perceived as both hero and villain. For some, he is a guardian who intervened to protect the public; for others, he's a vigilante who brazenly usurped the role of law enforcement. This dichotomy emerges as violent crime rates surge across US cities — a spike critics blame on the policies of district attorneys funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The narrative surrounding Penny's case has rapidly been swept up in a political current, although Penny himself has revealed little about his own political leanings. Nevertheless, conservative figures and groups have swiftly converged on Penny's cause, depicting him as a contemporary embodiment of the good Samaritan. At their behest, a crowdfunding campaign on GiveSendGo, a platform marketing itself as a Christian crowdfunding site, has garnered over $2.6 million for Penny's legal defense, as of Thursday night.

Among the most vocal supporters of Penny is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential contender in the next presidential race. He has encouraged followers to contribute to Penny's fund, drawing parallels between Penny and the biblical Good Samaritan who, moved by compassion, assists a man left beaten and destitute by the wayside.

This conservative rallying around Penny eerily mirrors the 2020 case of Kyle Rittenhouse. At 17, Rittenhouse shot three men, fatally wounding two, amid a violent demonstration in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Though he was later acquitted, Rittenhouse was assailed with politically-tinged accusations and public condemnation, with critics branding him a white supremacist.

Both Rittenhouse and Penny have emerged as emblems of a burgeoning "stand your ground" ethos within the conservative movement. This philosophy is driven by perceived laxity in law enforcement and an adoption of progressive policies like "restorative justice" and bail reform, which critics argue engender an aversion to charging or prosecuting criminals.

At the center of this controversy stands Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a figure emblematic of what critics view as an excessively lenient approach to crime. Bragg is one among numerous prosecutors nationwide who have received financial support from George Soros, a well-known benefactor of liberal causes. Soros stands accused by critics, including Governor DeSantis, of indirectly fanning the flames of rising crime through his support for such prosecutors.

With violent crime rates escalating across America, the case of Daniel Penny casts a spotlight on the diverging American perspectives on justice and personal responsibility. It offers a harsh critique of a criminal justice system that appears more complex and polarizing than ever. The outcome of this case and the ensuing national dialogue will undoubtedly carry profound implications for the direction of criminal justice reform in America.

In this fraught landscape, Penny emerges not just as an individual embroiled in a life-altering legal battle, but as a symbol of a wider societal discourse. His story is a reflection of our collective anxieties and the paradox of justice in modern America. As the nation watches and waits, the saga of Daniel Penny continues to remind us all of the complexities of justice, the power of public opinion, and the uneasy intersection between the two.

The debate over Penny's actions unfolds in a country grappling with a rapidly changing social landscape, one where long-held norms about law enforcement and personal responsibility are being upended. But those at the front lines of this discussion, those who find themselves in situations of potential danger, may have a different view. Let us set aside the political rhetoric for a moment and look at the heart of the matter: safety and the protection of the innocent.

In defending Penny, proponents argue that his actions, far from being a reckless display of vigilantism, were instead a courageous and necessary intervention. Here was a man with the physical capability and presence of mind to mitigate a potentially explosive situation. The past actions of Jordan Neely can be seen as clear indications that he was a potential danger to the people around him in that subway car. of potential harm. The man had been arrested dozens of times, and was associated with violent assault on a child and an elderly woman. When viewed from this perspective, Penny's actions become less an act of aggression, and more a protective response to a clear and present danger.

Penny’s detractors argue, among other things, that he had no way of knowing, then and there, about Neely’s violent history, and the latter’s behavior on the scene alone was not threatening enough to justify such forceful vigilantism. Race is also brought into the debate, with an argument that Penny was emboldened by his inherent “white privilege” to kill Neely, who was black, poor and had mental health issues.

Ultimately, Penny’s actions were not an attempt to supplant law enforcement but to fill a critical gap in a moment where time was of the essence. This case exposes flaws in the US criminal justice system — a system that is more interested in preserving a progressive image than ensuring public safety. Can we cast blame on those who rise to confront threats when our institutions seem reluctant to do so?

Governor DeSantis and others backing Penny underscore this perspective. The support stands not only as an endorsement of Penny but as a broader critique of a system veering dangerously towards a permissive stance on crime. If we demonize those who stand up to potential threats, we risk cultivating an environment where the innocent feel abandoned and the guilty feel emboldened.

In light of the current state of rising crime rates, those opposing Penny should pause and reflect on a rather uncomfortable hypothetical: If you found yourself on a subway train with Jordan Neely, knowing his history and potential for violence, wouldn't you wish for a Daniel Penny to be there?

As the trial unfolds and we witness the courtroom battles and public opining, let us not lose sight of the human element at the core of this case. Penny represents the potential in all of us to rise to unexpected challenges, to protect those around him. The question we must grapple with is whether such a response should be celebrated or censured.

Navigating these issues is no simple task, and we as a society must come to terms with this uneasy tension. How we reconcile these perspectives will shape not only the outcome for Daniel Penny but the broader narrative of justice in America. Perhaps it's time to consider that our subway cars, and indeed our society, need more individuals like Penny, willing to stand up when others won't. After all, when danger stares us in the face, we'd all want a good Samaritan to come to our aid.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.