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Darien Exec Charged with Assaulting Cabbie

Various accusations are flying around William B. Jennings' arrest on larceny, assault and racial bias charges after a dispute over a cab fare from New York City to Darien.

Editor's note: See the follow-up article: ""

Accusations of committing a "hate crime" and assault with a knife have been made against William Bryan Jennings, a Morgan Stanley executive, after a dispute with a taxi driver over a large cab fare from Manhattan to Jennings' home in Darien.

Jennings, 47, of Knollwood Drive, was arrested on a warrant this week and released on $9,500 bond. Morgan Stanley reportedly suspended him from his job as one of two heads of its North American fixed-income capital markets division.

The cab driver, identified as Mohamed Ammar of Astoria, Queens by the New York Post, received stitches on his hands after struggling with Jennings. His hands required more than 60 stitches, Bloomberg News reported. (Update, 4:29 p.m. Monday: Ammar told police he received six stitches.) Ammar, in an interview with the New York Post, and Jennings' lawyer, Eugene Riccio of Bridgeport, have provided widely differing accounts of the incident—at which only Jennings and Ammar were present.

Darien Police have issued their own description of what happened, relying largely on Ammar's statements and noting that Ammar called police immediately while Jennings didn't.

All agree that there was a dispute over the cab fare once the cab was stopped in Darien, that Ammar then continued driving with Jennings in the car, that Jennings got out a knife, that Ammar was cut with it, and that Jennings got out of the car.

Here are three areas where the accounts differ (for more details, see table, below):

  • "Hate crime"—Ammar told police that Jennings made statements to him (not described in the police department's news release) that later caused police to charge Jennings with "intimidation by bias or bigotry." Jennings' lawyer disputes that. Only Ammar and Jennings were in the car. The allegation has been translated into headlines describing the case as an accusation of a "hate crime."
  • "Abduction"—Riccio has said that after stopping in Darien and getting into a dispute over the fare, Ammar drove away with Jennings in the car. According to the New York Times, Riccio said the car doors were locked and Jennings couldn't get out. According to Bloomberg News, Riccio said the high rate of speed prevented Jennings from getting out of the car, even though a passenger door was open.
  • "Stabbing"—Police and Ammar say Ammar was stabbed. Riccio says Ammar grabbed the knife Jennings was holding.

After local news reports of the incident were published, Jennings contacted police, who applied for an arrest warrant resulting in his arrest earlier this week.

Charged with second-degree assault, theft of Services/sixth-degree larceny and intimidation by bias or bigotry, Jennings is due in state Superior Court in Stamford, according to Darien police.

Tabloid furor

The case has been widely reported in by New York City and financial news organizations, with a New York Post article publishing an exclusive interview with the cabbie and editorializing that Jennings is "in the top 1 percent—of jerks." and "a $2-million-a-year fat cat." The Post characterizes the taxi driver, Mohamed Ammar as "a mild-mannered, hardworking New York City cabby."

The New York Times, which had run an announcement on Jennings' 2001 marriage, published an account Friday that relied heavily on a description of the incident provided by Jennings lawyer, Eugene Riccio, in addition to the Darien Police news release. (The release is attached to this Patch article).

Other news organizations have also reported the story. A Bloomberg News article had further information from the police report, Riccio and Ammar.

Late Friday afternoon, a television truck from the ABC affiliate in New York City was parked on the Post Road near the Darien Sport Shop, where Jennings is said to have left the cab.

Three different accounts in Jennings' arrest

What

Darien

Police

say

What Cabbie

Mohamed

Ammar

says

What

Jenning's

lawyer,

Eugene Riccio

says

Fare

Dispute

"The taxi driver stated that he and the passenger, later identified as William Jennings, had agreed upon the New York City Taxi and Limousine Driver rate of $204.00 prior to leaving Manhattan.  The taxi driver stated that upon reaching Mr. Jennings’ residence he requested the agreed upon fare of $204.00 which Mr. Jennings refused to pay."
Ammar told the New York Post in an exclusive story that he showed Jennings the fare book for $204 when he picked him up in New York. Jennings slept during the trip. Arriving in Darien, Jennings said he wouldn't pay that high a fare, Riccio to New York Times: The cabbie demanded $294, about double what Jennings normally paid.

"Hate crime"

charge

"The Intimidation by Bias or Bigotry charge stems from statements made by Mr. Jennings toward the taxi driver." What Ammar is quoted telling the New York Post:

“I said, ‘You have to pay me. It’s the law,’ ” [...] “He says, ‘What law? You should go back to your own f--king country.’

“I say, ‘This is my f--king country, excuse my language. I’m an American citizen!’”

N.Y. Times: "Mr. Riccio denied that his client had stabbed the cab driver or used racial epithets [...]"

Dow Jones Newswires: "Riccio said [...] Jennings also 'denies that he said any racially offensive statements to the cab driver."

"Abuduction"

accusation

"The taxi driver stated that fearing for his safety he reversed out of the driveway with Mr. Jennings still in the taxi and attempted to call 911 but was unsuccessful due to poor cell service in the area.  The taxi driver stated that he drove in to the center of Darien in the hopes of finding a police officer."

Ammar to N.Y. Post: After pulling into Jennings' driveway, the dispute over the fare started. Ammar told Jennings he would drive into downtown Darien to find the police station. Jennings refused to leave the car and refused to close the car door, so Ammar drove it for some time with Jennings' door open.

In a Bloomberg News interview, Ammar denied trying to take Jennings back to New York: "Why should I take him back to New York, give him a round trip? I just want to get my money, and that's it."

According to N.Y. Times: The cabbie told Jennings he'd drive him back to New York City, and Jennings "couldn’t get the door open," Riccio said. After he pulled out a pen knife and struggled with the cabbie, he was able to get the door open as the taxi approached the entrance to I-95.

According to Bloomberg News: "'He pulled it [the knife] out in an effort to try to get the man to stop,” Riccio said. 'He was in a car that was racing down the road, disobeying traffic signals with the back door open.'”

"Stabbing"

charge

"At approximately midnight on 12/22/11 the Darien Police Department received a 911 call from a male taxi cab driver who reported that he had been stabbed in the hand by a customer he had driven from Manhattan, NY to Darien. [...] The taxi driver stated that as he was driving Mr. Jennings pulled a small pen knife from his coat pocket and began stabbing him through the open partition that divided the front and rear of the taxi’s interior.  The taxi driver attempted to defend himself by using his right hand to block the open partition." Ammar to N.Y. Post: "He leaned forward and yelled, ‘I’m gonna kill you, motherf--ker!”

“I saw his hand balled up into a fist and I thought he was going to punch me,” the cabby said.

“I put my hand out to protect, and that is when I saw the penknife. He went for my neck first but ended up slashing my hand many times as I was fighting him off . . . My hand was bleeding pretty bad”

Riccio to N.Y. Times: After arguing with the cabbie and being told he'd be taken back to New York City, Jennings pulled out a pen knife he uses for fishing. The cabbie grabbed the knife.

Riccio to Dow Jones Newswires: "My client categorically denies that he stabbed this individual."

What Jennings did afterward "At no point did Mr. Jennings attempt to contact the Darien Police Department during the incident.  Mr. Jennings did contact the Darien Police approximately two weeks later." Jennings got out of the car and walked toward a park. Ammar said he didn't try to follow Jennings. Jennings didn't call police immediately because of "fear for his safety and that of his family," Riccio told the N.Y. Times

Police have filed a report in state Superior Court in Stamford. Darien Patch will get the report on Monday.

Who William Bryan Jennings is

A Reuters article describes Jennings as "one of Morgan Stanley's most senior bond-trading executives."

According to a Dow Jones Newswires report in the Wall Street Journal, Jennings and Leo Civitillo together head up the North American fixed-income capital markets division at Morgan Stanley.

Jennings' immediate superior is Raj Dhanda, in charge of Morgan Stanley's global capital markets operation. Dhanda, in turn, reports to Paul Taubman, one of the heads of the company's institutional-securities group.

According to the Dow Jones Newswires, Jennings is a Williams College graduate with an M.B.A. from Northwestern who has worked for Morgan Stanley since 1993.

Clarification, 7:54 p.m., Saturday: In the table, the wording has been changed in the "Abduction" row to emphasize that statements attributed to Riccio that appear to contradict each other have been in reports published by different news organizations.

Editor's note: This article originally was published on Saturday, March 3. The time stamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Home page of Darien Patch.

Margot Sullivan March 09, 2012 at 02:20 AM
A reasonable person(cabby) would have called 911 in the Jennings driveway and waited for the police to resolve the situation...we have very good cell coverage on Knollwood Lane. Instead, he choose to fly down mansfield on his way to the hiighway hoping to scare the living daylights out of Bryan Jenning and force him to give up the $300. When Bryan got away, that's when the cabby went to the police.
Margot Sullivan March 09, 2012 at 02:43 AM
That's my theory
sebastian dangerfield March 09, 2012 at 07:02 AM
intersting--a neighbor who lives on the street maintains that there is good cell service. The police report says they doubt jennings version. Did they check a fundamental element of cabby version? that he needed to drive with passenger in tow-instead of calling? If there is good coverage--then that certainly would cast doubt on his claim of trying to contact / get to police. Would add to claim that he was headed back to ny.
dick nibbler March 12, 2012 at 06:24 AM
alleluia! By the way, all of the above are Democrats. Enough of this myth that Wall Street is still Republican.
Concerned Citizen June 05, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Mr. Spazi (several threads above) has said the smartest thing of all. This is all easily proven/verified with a simple request of the meter records. The driver is (by TLC regulations) obligated to code the trip into the meter AND the fare that has been agreed. Given the driver's (and police agreed) claim that he was very focused on this, the fare that they agreed will be in the meter if they agreed one. Curious if the DPD even checked this...

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