The law firm that defends Daniel Penny received more than $1.5 million in donations. The firm of Raiser & Kenniff collected this amount in gifts that varied between $5-$10,000 from the website GiveSendGo.
"Funds are being raised to pay Mr. Penny’s legal fees incurred from any criminal charges filed," the online petition explains. It further clarifies that the money will be used for any defense-related expenditures and a future civil lawsuit. "All contributions are greatly appreciated."
Penny is facing second degree murder charges. At the moment, he has been released on bail after voluntarily attending court in Manhattan last Friday. In the event that the final judgment is unfavorable, the former marine could spend up to 15 years behind bars.
"Thank you for protecting the citizens that day" wrote an anonymous donor who accompanied his words with $10,000 for Penny's defense.
Other users included in their comments the expression "Semper Fi, a Latin expression -Semper Fidelis- associated with the Marine Corps. In English, it means "always faithful.”
These texts may help to understand the motive behind the donations and what some people think of the trial against Penny. In addition to allusions to his past service, many gave criticized the lack of safety in New York:
Thank you for stepping in to keep people safe in the city where I live, even though it didn’t end up as you would have wanted. You are a hero for trying to keep people safe and restore order when the city wouldn’t. We shouldn’t have to tolerate the uncivilized and perpetual threat of violence, attacks from unhinged people in the streets or on the subway. We shouldn’t have to live like this!
There was no shortage of criticism of the the judicial system: "I, for one, think his arrest was to keep a certain group from rioting. The justice system in this country is now skewed to honor the criminal." Some took aim at the Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, one even signing off with his name:
I am sorry I did this to you. I know I am a despicable human being, yours, Alvin Bragg.
In the more than 3,000 comments, some of the most repeated words were "hero" and "thank you.”
DeSantis joins the campaign
Florida's governor, and possible presidential candidate, shared on Twitter the link to the fundraising campaign. He described Penny as a “good samaritan" who had to be shown that "America's got his back.”
Likewise, he said it was necessary to "defeat the Soros-Funded DAs,” alluding, among others, to Bragg.
"Stop the left's pro-criminal agenda, and take back the streets for law abiding citizens," are two other objectives mentioned by the Republican.
We must defeat the Soros-Funded DAs, 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.
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) May 13, 2023
The petition on GiveSendGo describes Daniel Penny as "a twenty-four-year-old college student and decorated Marine veteran." It also contends that he is "facing a criminal investigation stemming from him protecting individuals on a NYC subway train from an assailant who later died."
This version coincides with the one promoted by their lawyers in a press release statement: the former Marine acted in self-defense and could not have foreseen Neely's death. In that text, the lawyers emphasize his "documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness.”
A recent exclusive from The New York Times could reinforce this last argument. According to the newspaper, Neely was on a list of the 50 most dangerous homeless who were reluctant to receive help.
"Their job is to find solutions for those unsheltered New Yorkers who are struggling with mental illness and refusing efforts to connect them with housing and support," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams on the task force responsible for monitoring the 50 or so people on this list.
Acknowledging that this system "wasn't always successful," Adams recalled that Neely had had "various encounters with the criminal justice system."