William Bryan Jennings, a Morgan Stanley Executive, had to wait nearly nine months before Connecticut admitted they didn’t have the evidence to litigate a hate crime case against the Darien, CT native. Felony charges were brought against the banker in February after a New York cabbie told the Darien police he’d been assaulted by Jennings over a dispute about the price of a cab fare from New York City last winter. The Queens-native cabbie was Muslim, the banker rich & white—a scenario that created an easy target for supervisory assistant state’s attorney Steven Weiss and his boss, David Cohen, to show Main Street they’ll prosecute bad behaving Wall Streeters. Except in this case the banker became the victim.
A review of the request for a warrant, Darien police notes the night of the incident, Jennings signed statement, and a motion challenging the process the local cops and states attorney went through to get to an arrest show significant evidence was left out of the judicial process. Most of the information in Jennings own statement to the Darien police, signed on January 28th, was not in the warrant request filed by Darien Detective Chet Perkowski. Attorney Weiss claimed when he dropped the charges against Jennings it was because the cabbie, Mohamed Ammar, had not been honest about having the weapon, a pen knife, this whole time. A fact Weiss actually learned in May but waited till mid-October to disclose in open court.
The 2 ½ inch pen knife was allegedly used by Jennings to stab the cabbie in his right hand when the cabbie abducted Jennings after he wouldn’t pay the fare because he said it was over the usual rate. Darien’s Captain Komm told me they searched cab the night of the stabbing but never found the knife. In Jennings sworn statement he said he didn’t have the knife and thought the cab driver had it. Detective Perkowski actually mentioned this in his police notes but left this detail out in the warrant report which the judge used to sign for Jennings arrest.
Who had the knife was important because there was a he said-he said debate if the cabbie grabbed the knife out of Jennings hand and caused the cuts to his hand or if Jennings actually used the knife to purposely assault the cabbie.
“I told the driver that I had a knife in my possession and that I expected him to pull his car over and allow me to get out of it at this point. He again refused and I showed him the knife so it was clear to him that I had one in my possession. At no point did I attempt to make contact with the driver (with the knife or otherwise). The driver reached towards my hand in an aggressive manner and attempted to grab the knife from me. I released my grip on the knife and, at this point, I believed he had the knife in his hand,” wrote Jennings in his police statement.
Jennings goes on to state the cabbie actually stopped the taxi in the middle of Post Road (that runs through Darien town center) and got out of the driver side door.
“I feared that he now had my knife and that he had the opportunity and intent to harm me physically so I grabbed my belonging and ran as fast as possible up Leroy Avenue,” wrote Jennings.
These statements were never seen in the warrant report or the multiple news stories about the attack but could be found by any public citizen or journalist if they went to the Stamford court house and request the file on the case – like I did.
Officer Perkowski appeared to want to build a case against Jennings with the logic of Jennings not coming to them first to report the crime so he must be hiding something. Perkowski stated in his warrant report that when he sat in the cab he thought it would have been impossible for the cabbie to reach back through the partition and grab the knife from Jennings. If true that would make Jennings statement not credible. But when Jennings attorney, Gene Riccio, inspected the cab he said it would have been possible. He also stated in a motion to dismiss that State’s attorney Weiss also came to this conclusion. In an interview with Darien Captain Komm he told me attorney Weiss had actually never seen the inside of the cab only photos so there are unanswered questions on if Weiss thought officer Perkowski was mistaken. Weiss has refused to answer reporters’ questions about the case and only made comments in court. Komm told me he thought Weiss stood by the police work in the warrant report yet he dropped the charges?
The level of injury was also miss-stated in the warrant report. Medical records of cabbie Ammar show he only had stitches on the middle part of his right index finger and not his palm. Darien Officer Whyte, the first officer on the scene, wrote in his police notes “the night of the incident Ammar said he was stabbed multiple times in his right hand.” Whyte did note he saw the cabbie’s right hand was bleeding and “had small slice wounds that would have been caused by a sharp object”. Whyte stated the EMTs cleaned and bandaged Ammar’s wounds but he refused further medical treatment. Ammar later told the Darien police he went to New York’s Roosevelt hospital to get treated and needed 6 nylon stiches in his right finger. Medical records show Ammar’s doctor wrote there was no visible tendon or bone and he had full sensation and motor function intact. The cabbie left the hospital with a bill, before insurance, of $1169.52.
Ammar’s wounds were reported as a violent stabbing in the press. A media interpretation Jennings attorney had problems with. Attorney Riccio wrote in his motion to dismiss this June, “Does probable cause to arrest exists where the description of the assault and the injury sustained by Mr. Ammar are not supported by the medical records and photographs of the injury?”
The state’s attorney had used statements the cabbie said Jennings made to get the felony charge for ‘intimidation by bias’. The warrant report shows Ammar telling Darien cops Jennings yelled, “Mother fucker I’m going to kill you, you should go back to your own country.” This was allegedly said after Ammar overcharged him for the fare and then drove off with Jennings locked in the car when he refused to pay $300—the NY taxi rate chart shows the fare should be $204. Ammar also said Jennings made threatening statements about paying $10,000 in taxes to the town so the cops wouldn’t do anything if Ammar called them. Town records show Jennings actually is assessed to pay $29,852 in taxes on his home.
The problem is Officer Whyte’s police notes, taken at the scene, don’t have a word about hate statements being made by Jennings. Yet those alleged facts, witnessed only by Ammar and Jennings, made it front and center in the warrant report filed weeks later. You see Darien police records show somehow Ammar remembered these hate statement when Detective Perkowski did a follow up interview. Jennings consistently maintained he didn’t say anything like that. Court records show Jennings had no prior disturbance of the peace or hate-like charges filed against him in the past. There is nothing in his FINRA broker check record that shows prior criminal actions.
There is a federal law that mandates States track all reported hate crimes even if it’s only a verbal threat. In 2010 Darien had no assault hate crimes reported but its poorer neighbor city, Norwalk, shows eight were reported. In 2011 Darien had one hate crime based on race filed and Norwalk had five. In 2010 for all of Connecticut only one assault hate crime was reported against a Muslim, 37 were reported against Jewish people. The report filed by Commissioner Ruben Bradford says in 2010 there were 72 hate crimes reported against people (they also track property that is vandalized) of which only 8 were with an injury that needed treatment. In 2011 only 9 out of 82 people were assaulted with an injury that needed treatment. The report shows in both years about 20% of the hate crimes happened on a highway/road/street. Jennings faced up to ten years in jail if convicted of the assault because a hate crime was attached to it. With no weapon and a he-said he-said series of statements why did Stamford’s state attorney go so gung-ho with pursuing these charges against a rich banker? It’s a case with a lot of holes in the State’s attorney’s process of justice that is still answered.
When I asked Darien’s Captain Komm if he ever remembered a hate crime charge in the town, that was headed for trial, during his long tenure on the force he said no. He also said the Darien police asked state’s attorney Weiss if they could charge the cabbie with abduction and he said “no only go after Jennings”. Not surprisingly the State’s Attorney office is mum about how many hate crimes they’ve brought that had to be dropped.
Court filings show attorney Weiss knew since the early summer the cabbie’s statements were not adding up. So why did he wait till the weekend before the October trial was set to start to tell the cops he was going to nullify the charges. Darien PD told me Weiss even spent the state’s money issuing subpoenas for the cops and cabbie to testify at trial. Jennings lawyer filed at least three motions to dismiss which piled on the banker’s attorney cost. Weiss was likely trying to bluff Jennings into taking a plea deal after Judge Provodator ruled their Franks Motion would not go forward and Jennings couldn’t put the cops on the stand before trial to question them about their shoddy police work. But Jennings held to his not guilty plea and even requested a bench trial(judge rules without a jury) to speed up a trial date.
Weiss statement to Judge Provodator that he was not going to try the case because the cabbie mislead him about having the knife reads like bull shit. Jennings attorney Riccio is not talking about what he thinks motivated the charges being dropped and only made statements questioning the media’s pre-trial guilty verdict against his client based on one Darien cops warrant report. Most metro reporters are taught by their editors on day one “the cops lie and the perps lie your job is to find the middle”. But the wide variety of international reporters who covered this case wrote their stories copying other reporter’s work which hardly checked out the facts in the warrant report. Darien Times metro reporter David DesRoches was a rare exception and continued to follow the story with details presented by Jennings attorney that questioned the info in the Darien Police warrant report.
After the charges were dropped the Muslim cabbie cried race again and eluded to feelings that this was a white rich man getting off and an injustice occured. Ammar even said he’d ask the DOJ to follow up and charge Jennings but that isn’t likely to happen. He also told the Darien Times he was considering a civil suit against Jennings but a search in New York and Connecticut court records show nothing has been filed. The person who likely has a viable case to sue civilly is actually Jennings. He can’t sue the state’s attorney but can sue the town of Darien for the cops’ violations of his civil liberties via a false arrest.
Seasoned civil rights lawyer Norm Pattis told me, “It’s hard to build a case proving the police built a case that didn’t get to probable cause but this case sure has unusual facts. It’s troubling to see the State’s attorney use politics in the wheels of justice here.”
“It looks like this was a race to court house steps, whoever reports to cops first becomes the victim, and Ammar did that,” said Pattis. “Civil remedies are definitely worth a look here as it turns out the defendant became the victim.”
Bloomberg reported unnamed people who worked at Morgan Stanley saying Jennings no longer worked there. The investment bank, where he was co-head of U.S. bond underwriting, said at the time of his arrest this February he’d been put on indefinite leave. Jennings isn’t answering questions about where he works now. His $3 million home at 39 Knollwood Lane (4 beds, 5 baths, 6,484 sqft) is still listed in his family’s name so it appears they are still living in Darien. His attorney wouldn’t comment on questions if Jennings wants to sue the town.
So what’s left, Jennings avoids a criminal charges and goes on with his life but every time someone Googles his name the hate crime charge will come up. Attorney Weiss gets off without a solid explanation of how Connecticut dragged this man’s name through the mud and failed to build a viable case. The Darien cops go unchecked unless Jennings files a suit against them. I guess that’s how justice works in Connecticut’s gold coast of Fairfield County.