Sunday, May 21, 2023

At It Again

The eulogy for Jordan Neely, killed by Daniel Penny, on a New York City subway train, was delivered in Mount Neboh Baptist Church in New York City on Friday by Reverend Al Sharpton.

A New York jury, assuming there is no guilty plea, ultimately will render a judgement as to whether Mr. Penny actually murdered Mr. Neely. Presumably, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg believes that the jury will pronounce a guilty verdict upon the accused, who was charged with second degree Manslaughter eleven days after the incident. (By contrast, Bragg did not secure an indictment against Donald Trump until 401 days after Special Assistant District Attorney Mark Pomerantz resigned because Bragg decided against charging Trump for what Pomerantz termed "various felony violations.") 

Sharpton at the church was doing what he does, viewing a set of facts and accepting some while discarding others, and coming to a premature and entirely predictable conclusion.

Reverend Sharpton appears to have spoken for about twenty-one minutes, and the video below captures only the highlights.  He remarked

We should not- not- celebrate Jordan's life but we should not ignore how he died. This funeral was not on the schedule. We're not here because of natural causes.... Jordan was not annoying someone on the train.

Neely was alleged to have been annoying people on the train, the extent to which no doubt will be addressed at trial. However, if he were not annoying people there, he'd be way out of character because he reportedly

had a troubling history of violent attacks on straphangers in New York City before the disturbed man reportedly threatened passengers and Marine vet Daniel Penny allegedly put him in a fatal chokehold.

The 30-year-old vagrant, who once performed as a Michael Jackson impersonator, had been arrested dozens of times – including most recently for vicious assaults on subway riders, court records show.

In 2021, Neely socked a 67-year-old woman as she exited the Bowery station in the East Village in Lower Manhattan.

The woman sustained a broken nose, a fractured orbital bone, and "bruising, swelling and substantial pain to the back of her head" in the Nov. 12 attack, according to a criminal complaint. 

The woman sustained a broken nose, a fractured orbital bone, and "bruising, swelling and substantial pain to the back of her head" in the Nov. 12 attack, according to a criminal complaint. 

A pillar of the community, the Michael Jackson impersonator pled guilty to felony assault and

Court records show that as an adult Neely regularly lashed out at strangers on the subway and on the street.

From January 2020 to August 2021, he was arrested for public lewdness after pulling down his pants and exposing himself to a female stranger, misdemeanor assault for hitting a woman in the face, and criminal contempt for violating a restraining order. All three cases were dismissed as part of his Feb. 9 plea deal.

In June 2019, Neely attacked Filemon Castillo Baltazar, 68, on the platform of the W. 4th St. Station in Greenwich Village, according to the court papers.

"Out of nowhere, he punched me in the face," the victim told the New York Daily News. He said he'd seen Neely before looking for food in the trash bins.

One month prior, he hit a man so hard in the face that he broke his nose on the platform of the Broadway-Lafayette station – the same subway stop where he died four years later.

For both 2019 cases, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Reverend Sharpton maintained also

Jordan was screaming for help...

We keep criminalizing people with mental illness. People keep criminalizing people that need help. They don't need abuse. They need help.

If Jordan was screaming for help, then..... oh, he simply wasn't. The New York Times explains

In February, Mr. Neely, who had been in jail on an assault charge for punching a 67-year-old woman and breaking several bones in her face, was released to a residential treatment program, under a plea deal that required him to avoid trouble for 15 months, stay on antipsychotic medication and not abuse drugs.

Two weeks later, he walked out of the facility and did not return, and the arrest warrant was issued.

In March, Mr. Neely was approached by homeless-outreach workers at a subway station in Manhattan. He was neatly dressed and calm and accepted a ride to a shelter in the Bronx where he spent the night, according to outreach records shared with The New York Times.

But on April 8, when outreach workers found him at an end-of-the-line station in Coney Island, Mr. Neely, wearing dirty clothes riddled with burn holes, exposed himself and urinated inside a subway car, according to the notes shared with The Times.

Outreach workers, whose job requires them to win the trust of people who seek to avoid contact with the authorities, typically do not check for warrants, but they summoned the police, who ejected him from the station.

The police were also apparently unaware of the warrant. A program launched in 2019 in which the police did warrant checks on people caught violating transit-system rules was abandoned during the pandemic, after criticism that it was criminalizing homelessness.

"We" are so "criminalizing people that need help" that after Neely violently assaulted an elderly woman, he was not incarcerated but instead given an opportunity to get healthy at an in-patient treatment program at no expense to him.  He left, and when found the next month was taken to a shelter. When he committed a misdemeanor the following month, he was not taken to jail.

Mr. Neely was a criminal who was afforded considerable leniency by a law enforcement and court establishment which leans backward not to criminalize homelessness or mental illness. Ultimately, that approach failed, as it does with some and doesn't with others, because Jordan evidently wanted nothing to do with anyone who tried to help him.

The killing of Neely was unfortunate, even tragic, and a jury will decide whether (in its view) it was criminal. No one, not even- and  perhaps especially- the deeply tainted Sharpton can know for certain yet if this homicide was murder.  It's long past time for us, especially the Morning Joe crew which affectionately calls him "the Rev," to question the motives of Reverend Sharpton. Whether motivated by money, personal glory, racial prejudice, or an honest commitment to jumping to conclusions, he represents an ever-increasing obstacle to healing of the body politic.

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