Conflict Exposed: State’s Attorney in Banker Hate Crime Case is also a Muslim

The Stamford State’s Attorney office has some explaining to do as more troubling evidence has come out about how they handled the hate crime case against a former Morgan Stanley banker. Charges were dropped in October against Darien resident William Bryan Jennings who was accused by a New York Muslim cabbie of stabbing him with a pen knife after he tried to kidnap the banker over a cab fare dispute. We’ve now learned ASA Steven G Weiss – the prosecutor on the case – is a converted and practicing Muslim.

David DesRoches over at the Darien Times has a front page story today asking if Weiss choice to use a felony hate crime charge, instead of a misdemeanor assault charge, was motivated by Weiss’s own religion. Connecticut hate crime statistics show less than half a dozen hate crimes have been filed against Muslims in the last five years. The town of Darien had only one prior hate crime filed since the state started to track them.

A records and asset search for Steven G Weiss shows he served as an executive leader for the American Institute for Muslim and Islamic Studies in Fairfield, CT where he also owns a modest 4 bedroom home. (Ironically off Jennings Lane in Fairfield) Weiss who grew up Jewish in Greenwich’s poorer Bryam neighborhood converted to being a Muslim. A few people have told me this had to do with his wife’s background. The Muslim education center where he held office from 05-07 confirmed he practices prayers on his prayer rug.

Weiss, age 61, is a small-sized man who defense lawyers in Fairfield County told me can be volatile emotionally but they still respect his legal work. Work that has now come into question for violations of the Brady law. You see besides a possible religious conflict of interest for Weiss it’s also been confirmed he withheld exculpatory evidence from Jennings defense lawyer for four months. He did this while still trying to get Jennings to accept a plea deal. The Brady law says he needed to share the evidence with enough time before trial. Jennings got it only two weeks before the trial start date so it would be up to Weiss’s superiors to decide if this violated the Brady law.

When you look at the documented reporting DesRoches has done on this bizarre case I don’t see how lower Fairfield County residents aren’t very concerned that Stamford State’s attorney, David Cohen, has problems with judicial ethics on his team.

There is also the issue of shoddy police work by the Darien police explained in Jennings Franks Hearing motion that Darien residents need to pay close attention to. You see Jennings was fired from his million dollar job at Morgan Stanley and now faces the tasked of finding new work while potential employers see, via a simple Google search, headlines describing him as a racist cabbie stabber. All for an alleged crime the Darien police and the State now say never existed because they dropped the charges.

Weiss, a public official paid for by taxpayer, has been hiding under his desk from reporters like DesRoches- refusing to answer questions about how he handled the case and the State’s attorney office has Cohen defending him in quotes to the Darien Times. It’s a clusterfuck they likely want to go away.

While CT law doesn’t allow Jennings to sue a State’s attorney for a bad arrest, incurring high legal fees, and possibly ruining one’s public reputation – all he can really do is file a grievance complaint against him. Which would likely only make a black mark on Weiss’s record but wouldn’t cost him his job or law license.

Jennings stronger action is to sue the wealthy town of Darien for the actions of the local cops. Civil rights attorney Norm Pattis has commented for me in the past that Jennings case is definitely interesting with potential clout. But if Jennings does sue the town, they’d likely settle, then he’s forcing his friends and neighbors to pay for the gross mistake of the local cops. That’s not much of a win.

Another alternative is for Jennings to work with his elected town council to poll Darien taxpayers and get a petition to have the Darien cops who worked on the case fired. The town taxes do pay their salary. If there are other cases where Darien police have filed warrant reports leaving out critical evidence then that’s something the town needs to take a serious look at.

If you are Darien resident or live in a town that has to answer to David Cohen’s Stamford or Norwalk prosecutors this is case you want to pay attention to. A Muslim prosecutor coming up with a Muslim hate crime off a he-said he-said case with circumstantial evidence ,and drops it, just doesn’t sound like justice.

Editor’s Note: The Jennings case hit international headlines from the New York Post to the UK tabloids at the time of Jennings arrest. Even John Dillon at Bloomberg was aggressively covering the story-all blaming the rich white banker off a one sided Darien police report. Now that the case was dropped it’s only the Darien Times who has done the leg work to report out what really happened. It’s a shame Hearst CT Newspapers have ignored the story and never even tried to interview Jennings. That’s likely because they are afraid to ruin their info trading relationship with their local cops and State’s attorney. I am a firm believer if you start a story you’d better try to finish it – luckily DesRoches appears to be that type of reporter. It’s something we need more of in their sister paper the New Canaan Advertiser.

Will Morgan Stanley Banker Accused of Hate Crime now Sue Darien Police for Bad Arrest?

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.

DesRoches reported:

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.