Leading Republican voices are casting Daniel Penny, the former Marine charged with fatally choking Jordan Neely on a Manhattan subway, as the victim even after prosecutors say Penny committed manslaughter. To hear the GOP tell it, Penny is one of many people subjected to out-of-control crime in Democratic cities, Politico reports. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) dubbed Penny a hero on Twitter. Fox News host Sean Hannity called him Neely as a public menace who was “subdued” by a brave veteran. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking up the cause, encouraging Twitter followers to contribute to Penny’s legal defense fund and “take back the streets for law abiding citizens.” That plea fueled a surge in donations that brought the former Marine’s haul from $280,000 to over $2 million.
The messaging by Republicans continues a tough-on-crime political strategy that helped the GOP secure several House seats last year in the suburbs of deep-blue New York City. Penny’s case has become their latest cause heading into the 2024 elections. “This individual case is emblematic of what Republicans see as the collapse of the policing system and law-and-order in major cities,” said Dave Urban, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Donald Trump. Many on left called Penny a vigilante. Neely, who was on the city’s “Top 50” list of homeless people at risk, was recorded screaming that he was hungry, “fed up” and “ready to die” before he was put in the fatal chokehold. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said Neely was “murdered” and his death was representative of a larger failing to invest in mental health and homelessness services. Republicans have seized on the case as another line of attack against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a darling of progressive Democrats.