Bloomberg News

Morgan Stanley’s Jennings Asks Court to Dismiss Stabbing Case

March 29, 2012

A New York City taxi through Times Square. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

A New York City taxi through Times Square. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

The Morgan Stanley (MS:US) U.S. bond- underwriting chief accused of stabbing a New York cab driver over a fare, William Bryan Jennings, asked a Connecticut judge to dismiss the prosecution because the alleged victim contradicted himself in statements to the police, a defense lawyer said in a filing.

The motion to dismiss the case was filed yesterday in state court in Stamford, Connecticut, said Jennings’s lawyer, Eugene Riccio, who provided a copy. It couldn’t be immediately confirmed in court records.

“The motion speaks for itself,” Riccio said in a phone interview. “There are serious deficiencies in the application for the arrest warrant.”

Jennings, 45, is accused of attacking the driver, Mohamed Ammar, on Dec. 22 with a 2 1/2-inch blade and using racial slurs after a 40-mile ride from New York to the banker’s home in Darien, Connecticut.

Ammar, 44, a native of Egypt and a U.S. citizen, said Jennings called him an expletive and said, “I’m going to kill you. You should go back to your country,” according to the police report.

Jennings faces assault and hate-crime charges, which each bring a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He’s also charged with not paying the fare, a misdemeanor. He pleaded not guilty March 9.

Steven Weiss, a prosecutor in the office of the state’s attorney, didn’t immediately return a call for comment on the filing.

False Statements

The case should be dropped because the arrest warrant contains false statements and omissions that “seriously undermine” Ammar’s credibility, according to the filing.

Jennings said Ammar told police the night of the incident that it occurred in or near the driveway of Jennings’s $3.4 million home, and that he drove away with Jennings in the car and was then able to dial 911, according to the filing. A week later, the driver said the stabbing happened after he had driven off to find police and that they were on Route 1 in Darien, according to Jennings’s filing.

“These locations are at least a mile apart,” according to the filing. “The affidavit did not disclose this inconsistency.”

Ammar didn’t mention to police the night of the incident the derogatory remarks attributed to Jennings, according to the filing. He first mentioned the remarks a week later, it said.

Taxi Fare

Ammar told police the night of the incident that the ride would cost “over $100” and later said he and Jennings had agreed on a $204 price, according to the filing.

Ammar told police that before they left for Connecticut, he showed Jennings the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission’s rate book listing the fare at $204. Jennings said he didn’t discuss the fare and he assumed the cost would be $125 to $150, which is what Morgan Stanley’s car service charged, according to police. He had never taken a yellow cab home before, he said.

The arrest affidavit also said Jennings told police “he had been drinking throughout the day,” which he said in the filing is “wantonly false.” He didn’t drink any alcohol until 5 p.m., when he hosted a charity auction. After that event, he attended a Morgan Stanley holiday party at a boutique hotel, which is where he hailed the cab.

The arrest affidavit also omits information showing that after demanding $294 Ammar “unlawfully restrained” Jennings by driving away with him in the car, to the point the banker feared he was being taken back to New York City, Jennings said in the filing. The filing includes a Feb. 15 letter from Riccio to Darien police requesting Ammar be arrested for “unlawful restraint” and “reckless endangerment.”

Lie Detector

Ammar didn’t tell police that he tried to follow Jennings after he escaped from the cab and his statements were inconsistent about where and when the banker tried to do that, according to the filing.

Jennings didn’t refuse to take a lie-detector test because his lawyer saw “no benefit” in it as police said, according to the filing. He was originally told that polygraphs would be administered to both men, and when he learned Ammar wouldn’t be sitting for one and that police were unwilling to agree to drop the case if Jennings passed the test, the banker then declined to take one, according to the filing.

A lawyer for Ammar, Hassan Ahmad of Manhattan, declined to comment on the motion to dismiss.

Cut His Hand

Jennings flagged Ammar down in front of Ink48, a hotel on Manhattan’s West Side, sometime before 11 p.m. after the banker said his car service didn’t appear, according to the police report.

The banker said he never stabbed Ammar, according to his police statement. He told police the driver cut his hand trying to grab the knife from him, which he said he wielded because he feared he was being abducted. Ammar denied that he tried to take Jennings back to New York.

He turned himself two weeks later after a vacation in Florida, and was charged with second-degree assault, theft of services and intimidation by bias or bigotry. He said he never threatened to kill Ammar or told him to go back to his country.

Pen Pendleton, a spokesman for New York-based Morgan Stanley, said March 2 that Jennings has been put on leave.

The case is State of Connecticut v. Jennings 12-0176761, Superior Court for the State of Connecticut (Stamford).

To contact the reporter on this story: Thom Weidlich in New York at tweidlich@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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