The heartbroken family of the young Irishman who was killed by one punch early Thanksgiving morning outside a Queens bar is furious that the perpetrator has been charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and plans to push the district attorney’s office for a more serious charge.
Tim Murphy, the uncle of 21-year-old Danny McGee, who fell to the ground outside the Gaslight bar in Sunnyside after the punch from Dublin native Steven O’Brien and was pronounced dead shortly after, says that justice won’t be served if O’Brien, 25, is allowed to plead guilty to the assault charge which could result in no jail time.
“He’s been charged with the most minor assault possible. That’s just unbelievable,” Murphy told the Irish Voice on Monday from Co. Longford. He accompanied the body of his nephew to Ireland on November 26 in advance of McGee’s funeral in his hometown of Drumlish on the 29th.
Murphy, a retired FDNY lieutenant who worked on 9-11 recovery efforts at Ground Zero, is a past president of the Cork Association of New York. A native of Queens, his sister is Colleen Murphy McGee, Danny’s mother; Tim and Colleen were raised in Maspeth by a father from Rockchapel, Co. Cork and a mother from Co. Longford. Colleen met her husband Don McGee, also a native of Longford, in New York, and the couple moved back to Drumlish 15 years ago after having two sons, Danny and 20-year-old Brian. A third child, daughter Eva, was born in Longford.
Murphy has been in touch with NYPD detectives about his nephew’s case and plans on speaking to the district attorney’s office after his return to New York this weekend. He acknowledges that O’Brien didn’t set out to kill Danny after a night of Thanksgiving Eve drinking at the Gaslight which apparently resulted in words being exchanged that led to the early morning altercation but given that O’Brien left the scene after Danny fell to the ground, he is adamant that a simple assault charge isn’t good enough.
“I’m not a lawyer but there’s got to be something more that can be done. I want to see the video. I want to see what happened,” Murphy said.
“And I want to find out how the charges can be upgraded to something a little more serious. We can’t forget that Danny died as a result of this. We’ve heard that [O’Brien] could plead guilty and get no jail time, only anger management classes. That would just be devastating for us.”
O’Brien’s next court date is Friday, January 4 – the day Danny would have turned 22 -- and Murphy will be in attendance. He says four friends of Danny’s have given new statements to the NYPD in the days since the funeral, and there will be many supporters in the courthouse next month.
O’Brien was freed on $25,000 bail after turning himself in on Black Friday. His attorney, Matthew Gartenberg, did not return a call from the Irish Voice to his office on Monday.
What would Murphy say to O’Brien if he had the chance? “I don’t know,” he says after a pause. “I was young once too, but I never did anything like he did to Danny. And he ran away. You don’t run away when something like that happens. You stay and try to help.
“How can someone do that when another person is lying on the street in front of you? I can’t fathom how that can happen.”
Danny was laid to rest in Drumlish, Co. Longford last Thursday. His funeral was attended by hundreds of people and attracted widespread media coverage in Ireland.
“So many people came to my sister’s house since he passed away. It was a huge turnout. She has a lot of support, but now that the funeral is over reality has sunk in and it’s awful,” says Murphy, who had the unenviable task of telling his sister that her son had died in New York.
“It was very difficult,” he recalled. “We have cousins living in the [Drumlish] area. I called one at work and she got to my sister’s house about 10 minutes after the [Irish police] got there. My sister called me and asked what was going on. I was at the hospital. It was a very, very difficult, heartbreaking conversation.”
Danny had decided to move to New York in September of 2017 to see what life was like here, his uncle said. He worked as a doorman in Manhattan and rented an apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, but didn’t relish America and decided to return home to Longford next February when the lease on his apartment was up.
“He was done. New York wasn’t for him. He just missed home. He had traveled back to Longford four times for visits. He was going to go back home and go to college,” Murphy said.
“He was just an exceptional person, a total joy. He loved sports, soccer, and Gaelic, and he had his whole life ahead of him. I can’t describe how devastated we are.”
The McGees were planning a Christmas trip to New York to visit Danny. Murphy says all plans have been put on hold.
“I just don’t know what’s going to happen. They were supposed to come on the 20th. They will either come here or we will go back there,” Murphy said.
“It doesn’t matter though because it won’t be Christmas without Danny.”