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.