William Bryan Jennings, the Morgan Stanley U.S. bond-underwriting chief accused of stabbing a New York cab driver over a fare, will leave his fate to a judge rather than a jury.
Jennings appeared today in state court in Stamford, Connecticut, where he waived his right to a jury trial. Judge Richard F. Comerford Jr. set a pretrial hearing for May 25.
“The route to the quickest resolution of this matter is by a judge,” a defense attorney, Eugene Riccio, said after the hearing. Riccio said he will also continue to pursue a motion to dismiss the charges. His client had no comment on the case.
Assistant State’s Attorney Steven Weiss had no immediate comment on the case.
Jennings 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, a native of Egypt and a U.S. citizen, said Jennings called him a name 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 brings 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.
Motion to Dismiss
On March 28, Jennings filed a motion seeking to have the case dismissed, arguing Ammar contradicted himself in statements to the police. 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 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. Jennings had attended a company Christmas party.
Ammar told police that once they reached Jennings’s $3.4 million home, he refused to pay the $204 fare they had agreed on. He said he drove away trying to find police and that during the ride the banker stabbed him in the hand. Jennings said they never agreed on an amount and Ammar demanded $294, which he viewed as exorbitant.
Jennings said in his motion that Ammar told police the night of the incident that it occurred in or near his driveway, and that he drove away with Jennings in the car and was then able to dial 911.
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.
Ammar didn’t tell the police about the derogatory remarks on the night of the incident, according to the filing. He first mentioned them a week later, it said.
Jennings said Ammar “unlawfully restrained” him by driving away with him in the car, to the point that the banker feared he was being taken back to New York City.
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.
Jennings turned himself in 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).