This story has been updated
The Darien Wall Street executive who was arrested for felony assault and larceny this February appears to have beaten the local cops and Stamford Conn. states attorney in their quest to label a white rich Morgan Stanley banker guilty of hate crimes. News broke this morning that William Bryan Jennings will have 2 class D felonies and 1 class C misdemeanor dropped against him on Monday when the case was scheduled to start its court trial.
Jennings made international headline news this March when the arrest warrant written by detective Chet Perkowski of Darien PD detailed statements made by a New York cabbie born in Egypt saying Jennings tried to stab him in the neck and verbalized ‘hate statements’ at the driver after a dispute about the amount of taxi toll from NYC to Darien. The request for warrant report also said the cabbie took off with Jennings in the car (basically kidnapping him) after he refused to pay a near $300 toll. Jennings was booked and had to post $9,500 to get out of jail but the driver, Mohamed Ammar who lives in Queens, was not charged. It sparked an international media debate around bias, hate crimes and bankers behaving badly. But a legal motion filed this summer by Jennings attorney, Gene Riccio of Gulash & Riccio, showed a series of misstatements and material facts left out of the request for warrant report filed by Officer Perkowski and Lt. Ron Bussell.
I read through the media reports by local papers this June and David DesRoches of community newspaper The Darien Times did an excellent reporting job explaining all the alleged inaccuracies and sloppy police work by the Darien Police. The motion DesRoches reported on is called a request for a Franks Hearing. This is where defendants have the chance to put the cops on the stand, without a jury, and hold a hearing questioning how they got to the information listed in the warrant report. A judge can then rule the warrant ineffective. Franks Hearings are hard to get in the Fairfield County, CT court systems because judges don’t like to put another judge’s decision to sign an arrest warrant on the stand.
Additionally, police stated in the arrest warrant that it would have been “virtually impossible” for Anmar to reach back for the knife that Jennings held, which led to Anmar’s hand being cut. Riccio said that the interior of the taxi was examined by himself and the prosecution and it was learned that reaching back would have been possible. Attempts to contact Steven Weiss, prosecuting attorney, to confirm Riccio’s statement, were unsuccessful.
This “assertion of impossibility was one of the three critical reasons” for the arrest, the motion stated, “along with (Jennings) not calling the police on the night of the incident and his refusal to submit to a polygraph examination…”
Anmar told police he thought Jennings was trying to stab him in the neck and defended himself with his right arm while steering with his left hand. Jennings said Anmar tried to take the knife from him, which cut Anmar’s hand. Det. Perkowski, who has been on the Darien Police force for 24 years, stated in the arrest warrant that his investigation “discredits Jennings’ statement that Anmar reached into the back of the cab while he was driving.”
The motion also shows the cabbie never mentioned racial slurs when he was first interviewed by the Darien police and those statements ‘just happen’ to show up after the officers came back a second time to interview Anmar.
Riccio wrote in his Franks Hearing motion, “In light of this repeated conduct by Det. Perkowski throughout the affidavit… the court was presented with an affidavit that was distorted to present Anmar’s assertions in the most favorable, albeit erroneous, light possible and (Jennings’) position in the least favorable, also erroneous, manner possible. These gross and repeated misrepresentations are diametrically at odds with the legal obligation of (police) in the warrant process.”
Darien police Captain Fred Komm told me in an email today the request for the Franks Hearing was actually denied by the court. This mean Riccio didn’t get to put the cops on the stand and question their actions under oath so a court trial was scheduled to take place next. But clearly the State’s assistant attorney took the evidence Riccio presented to heart because right before the trial was to start he wants to drops the charges.
So what happen? If the case had gone to trial Jennings attorney would still have a chance to put the Darien cops on the stand and try to show the court their flaws in the warrant process. This could have been really embarrassing for the Darien police and the judge who signed the warrant. On top of that if the State lost their case the defendant has an even better chance of suing the town for violations of their civil liberties and recovering the cost of attorneys fees and loss of income due to the faulty arrest. Jennings was the co-head of fixed income at Morgan Stanley – a million-plus dollar job. At the time of his arrest on February 29th the bank put him on leave and today Bloomberg sourced unnamed people at the bank who said he didn’t work there any more. I was not able to confirm if Jennings is really out of Morgan Stanley but if he lost his job because overzealous local cops got him arrested for a crime the State is dropping charges on nearly a year later – well that’s real problem in our local justice system.
The cabbie made press statements he’s outraged the case is being dropped but we have yet to hear from Jennings on if he’s planning to sue the town of Darien for violations of his civil liberties based on the Darien Police actions in obtaining an arrest warrant. I have a freedom of information request in asking if Officer Perkowski has had citizen complaints filed against him before and if he’s had other warrant reports challenged in legal filings.
This case looked like an attempt for local cops in a wealthy enclave of Wall Street to be main street’s hero by get a hate crime criminal charge against a big bad rich banker. But was the banker, Jennings, instead the victim here?
UPDATE 12-19-12: One of my commenters was right. It looks like Morgan Stanley totally screwed Jennings on millions of his deferred compensation. This story reads like Jennings public relations person leaked it to the WSJ – a tactic used because Jennings is negotiating with the bank to pay him or he’ll likely sue.