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Jennings Case: No Charges for Cabbie [UPDATE]

Police documents, including statements from both Darien executive William B. Jennings and cabbie Mohamed Ammar, answer some of the questions about the unusual incident that led to the arrest of the Darien man.

Editor's note, 11:54 a.m., Friday:

Update 1:21 p.m., Wednesday:

Darien Police have closed their investigation into the incident which resulted in William B. Jennings' arrest and don't plan to press charges against cab driver Mohamed Amman, a spokesman for the department has announced.

Jennings and his lawyer, Eugene Riccio, have said the taxi driver took Jennings in his taxi against Jennings' will during the Dec. 21 dispute over cab fare.

Captain Frederick W. Komm, a department spokesman and commander of the investigative services bureau, said in an email:

"A few media outlets have inquired as to whether the investigation is ongoing and if the cab driver might also be the focus of further police investigation. The answer is that as a result of the arrest of Jennings, the Darien Police Department considers the case closed."

Update 10:53 a.m., Tuesday (headline: "Exec-Cabbie Fight Details in Court File [UPDATE]":

All of the document images attached to this article have been enhanced for clarity. They should be easier to read, now.

Update 5:54 p.m., Monday:

Late at night, according to William B. Jennings' lawyer, Eugene Riccio, during a heated dispute with a cab driver over the fare, the cabbie tells Jennings that he's driving him all the way back to New York City.

Soon, the car is speeding through Darien toward I-95 with the passenger door open, Riccio continues.

"This is not a situation that permits detached reflection about what you ought to be doing," he said.

That's Riccio's answer to the question, "Why didn't Jennings call the police from his cell phone?"

Riccio also said: "At that point, my client was in an extremely dangerous situation, and his first instinct—and I think it was a proper one—was to protect himself. He only had a matter of minutes to escape from that cab before it would've been on the turnpike"

Police say Jennings had both his cell phone and his 2 1/2-inch pen knife in his hands during the Dec. 21 incident. According to police, Jennings should have used the cell phone to call them. Instead, during a struggle with the cab driver, Jennings cut Ammar's finger and palm of the same hand. The cab at that point stopped, and Jennings ran off.

with assault, larceny and intimidation by bias or bigotry. The last charge is related to an alleged bigoted statement Jennings denies making. Released on $9,500 bond, he is scheduled to make his first appearance Friday in state Superior Court in Stamford. The cab driver, Mohamed Ammar, was treated and released at a hospital with six stitches in one hand.

Riccio also didn't think there was much of an opportunity for Darien police to come to Jennings' assistance since the cab was about to get on the highway.

When asked whether or not state police would have been called to a reported abduction in a car on Interstate 95, Riccio said: "My client sought to extract himself from the cab. He was in an emergency situation and sought to extract himself from that cab as best he could. He didn't have the opportunity to consdier what combination of enforcement agencies could rescue him."

Asked why Jennings didn't call the police after the incident, Riccio repeated what his client told police—that he was fearful the cabbie would target his family if he knew who made the complaint.

When asked the question police asked Jennings—why, if he was concerned for his safety, wasn't he even more motivated to call police later— Riccio added, "He did escape from the situation and wanted to leave it at that."

Riccio declined to say just where in the cab Jennings held the pen knife he showed the cabbie as the cabbie was driving. "We'll address all of that in court," the attorney said.

Detective Chester Perkowski  said in his affidavit that it was "virtually impossible" for Ammar, while he was driving the taxi, to have reached into the back seat to struggle with Jennings.

Riccio said he didn't want Jennings to take a polygraph exam because police refused to agree that if he passed the test they wouldn't charge him. There was to be no polygraph test for Ammar, Riccio added.

He also said the test would be a combination of interrogation and testing, and he, Riccio, would not be allowed to be present when his client was questioned. "I'm not going to have him submit to a test and an interrogation when I'm not present."

Update 4:55 p.m.: An interview with  William B. Jennings' lawyer, Eugene Riccio, will be posted shortly.

Original article:

Both the Darien executive and the Queens cab driver who took him home from Manhattan on Dec. 21 told police they feared for their safety in an extended confrontation over the cab fare—a dispute which later resulted in

Those and other details are in statements to police and other court documents in the case file in state Superior Court in Stamford.

Darien police later charged Morgan Stanley executive William Bryan Jennings, 47, with second-degree assault, sixth-degree larceny and second-degree intimidation by bigotry or bias in a case widely reported by New York metropolitan news organizations and the financial news media.

Papers in the court file clear up some questions about the case that were raised after the earliest news reports, such as the extent of the cab driver's cuts, and bring into sharper focus other questions, such as whether or not Jennings, who didn't call police until weeks later, had his cell phone out when he held the pen knife that cut the cabbie.

"I felt like I was going to die that night," Mohamed Ammar, the cab driver, said in a statement given to police Dec. 28 and neatly hand-printed by a police officer.

"I saw him try to stab me in the head, and I put my hand up. He tried to stab my neck, but cut my right inner finger," Ammar's statement said. "I continued driving and stoped at a red light, where he got out of the car. He headed up the street and went into a park. I was yelling for help, for someone to call 911."

Ammar told police he had tried calling 911 earlier, but bad reception for his cell phone didn't allow the call to be made.

Jennings, in his own statement to police, wrote, "I feared that he now had my knife and that he had the opportunity and intent to harm me physically [...]"

Bleeding

According to Darien Police Detective Chester Perkowski's arrest-warrant application, Ammar was "bleeding profusely" when police answered his call and found him on Squab Lane on the south side of the Darien Metro-North station.

Perkowski reported that Ammar said "the suspect stabbed at him and he put his hand up to block the attack. Ammar felt that the suspect tried to stab him in the neck. In the process of blocking the attack, Ammar sustained a cut to his right index finger and palm. Ammar stopped the cab at this point, at which time the suspect fled, running through a park before disappearing. Ammar tried to follow the suspect but could not locate him."

A New York Post article quotes Ammar saying: "He got out of the car and he walked into the park. I didn’t follow him ... I didn’t want to imagine what he would do in an empty park at night." The park was apparently the small triangular park between the Darien Sport Shop and the intersections of the Post Road and Leroy Avenue.

Ammar told police he received six stitches on a finger when doctors at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan attended to the cuts on his finger and palm. (One erroneous news report said the cabbie received 60 stitches.)

Charges

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

Charged with second-degree assault, theft of Services/sixth-degree larceny and intimidation by bias or bigotry, Jennings is due March 9 in state Superior Court in Stamford, according to Darien police.

The dispute starts

Jennings, in a statement dated Jan. 20, told police the dispute over cab fare began when the taxi was parked in his driveway. This is part of his account:

"After arguing about the fare for another minute or so, he became frustrated that I would not pay his suggested amount and he told me that I was not going to be allowed to get out of the taxi.

"I tried to open the sliding door on the right side of the taxi but I could not open the door as it was locked. I told him to unlock the door and he told me that, if I was unwilling to pay his suggested fare, we were going back to New York City."

The New York Post quoted Ammar saying in an interview last week that “We drove up his driveway ... He slides open the door and asks, ‘How much do I owe you?’" The Post also quoted Ammar recalling that he told Jennings, "'Would you close the door?’ He refused. He sat in the seat as I drove with the door open.”

Jennings' account continues

In his statement to police, Jennings' said: "At this point, I began to become afraid that he intended to take me back to New York—and the fear of potentially being dropped in any number of dangerous places began to concern me as well.

"He backed out of my driveway at an aggressive reverse speed and turned the minivan so as to begin travelling back down (east) Knollwood Lane towards Mansfield Avenue. A few seconds after reversing out of my driveway, I found the unlock feature on the door and slid the door open with the hope that I might be able to jump out of the minivan once he stopped at the stop sign at the intersection of Knollwood Lane and Mansfield Avenue.

I never had the opportunity to exit the vehicle as the driver went through the  stop sign (turning right/south on Mansfield and Sedgewick) and the driver continued through the intersection without any regard for the blinking light, the law or my safety as he proceeded toward the southern end [of] Mansfield Avenue (at the intersection of Route 1 by Post Corner Pizza)."

Jennings said the driver whipped through the intersection, onto the Post Road, ignoring traffic signs and signals and driving too fast for the passenger to think it was safe to jump out of the car.

"Our verbal argument also began to become more heated as well, with me screaming at him to pull over the car. I told him that I thought what he was doing was against the law, as I had repeatedly told him I wanted to be let out of his car, and he was holding me against my will. The sliding door on the right-hand side of the taxi had remained open since I managed to get it open after leaving my driveway on Knollwood Lane. [...]

"At this point we were getting uncomfortably close to the entrance ramp of I-95, and the driver reiterated his intent to take me back to New York City, since I had not paid his demanded fare. Fears about my personal safety increased as he was obviously quite serious about his intent to take me back to New York City—and to potentially drop me anywhere he wanted to at a very late hour.

"At this point, I told him that I was going to call the police and began to reach to find my phone in my briefcase. As I searched for my phone in my bag, the driver made several threatening movements with his right arm towards me, and I was becoming increasingly certain of his intention to take me back to New York City.

"At this point, we were just a few more seconds away from the entrance ramp to I-95. In the search for my phone in my briefcase, I found a small pen knife that I had been keeping in my briefcase to open various packages that had begun arriving in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

"I told the driver that I had a knife in my possession and that I expected him to pull his car over and allow me to get out of it at this point. He again refused, and I showed him the knife so it was clear to him that I had one in my possession. At no point did I attempt to make contact with the driver (with the knife or otherwise). The driver reached toward my hand in an aggressive manner and attempted to grab the knife from me. I released my grip on the knife and, at this point, I believed he had the knife in his hand.

"He immediately stopped the taxi in the middle of the Post Road and got out of the driver-side door. I feared that he now had my knife and that he had the opportunity and intent to harm me physically, so I grabbed my belongings and ran as fast as possible up Leroy Avenue.

"I was now becoming increasingly fearful that the driver, given that he had just turned around in my driveway and therefore, in all likelihood, knew where I lived, would retrace his steps and return to my home. I managed to get to my home quite quickly (retracing my path up Leroy, over McLaren, up Mansfield and onto Knollwood Lane). I got to my home and waited for the possibility that he might return to my house, and he did not."

Not calling police

What Jennings next said in his statement would be questioned by police as hurting Jennings' credibility:

"At this point, I should have called the Darien Police, and I regret not doing so. Once I managed to get home (or, at the very least, the next day). , the best course of action would clearly have been to contact the police. I was afraid that the driver would somehow be made aware of who I was and, potentially, where I lived. I feared that if he was crazy enough to take me away from my home in his car against my will, there was probably little else he wouldn't do. Most importantly, I worried about the future safety of my wife and two children."

Jennings soon left town on a vacation. After news reports about the incident appeared in Darien, a friend of Jennings told him about the incident, Jennings contacted Eugene Riccio, a criminal defense attorney, who contacted Darien Police on Jan. 3. When Jennings returned to town, he spoke with police and initially agreed to take a lie detector test, although Riccio later retracted that offer.

Describing the point at which Jennings took the pen knife, Perkowski wrote in his arrest-warrant affidavit that Jennings already was holding his cell phone, and described other details related by Jennings that were not in Jennings written statement to police.

Perkowski wrote:

"Jennings stated that at this time he took his cell phone from his briefase to call the police, and while doing so he realized he had a small pen knife with a 2 1/2 inch blade with him. He said the cab driver then reached back through the partition trying to grab the phone. Jennings told him not to reach back again, and that he had [a] knife with him. At this point, the driver grabbed the knife and cut his hand. he stated the driver said, 'you cut me,' and pulled over to the side of the road, about 30 yards away from the Darien Sport Shop."

Concerns about safety, yet no call to police

At another point in Perkowski's affidavit, he wrote that Jennings' concern for his and his family's safety seemed to be contradicted by the fact that Jennings never called police, either during the incident or afterward:

"At no time did Jennings make any attempt to contact the police when this incident occurred, nor any time thereafter. He only contacted his attorney after his friend told him the police were looking for the suspect in the stabbing inciddnt. When questioned as to why he never contacted the police, he replied that he was afraid the taxi driver would come after him, as he knew where he lived.

"If in fact that was the case, I asked him, wouldn't that [have] been more of [a] reason to call the police, seeing that you were afraid this man was going to come after you? Jennings reply to that was he didn't know what to do, he just wanted the whole thing to go away. Jennings claims that he never threatened to kill Ammar, nor did he make any disparaging remarks to him."

Credibility and the struggle with the knife

Perkowski found another reason to disbelieve Jennings' account of the incident:

"My investigation discredits Jennings' statement that Ammar reached into the back of the cab while he was driving. In inspecting the cab, Ammar would have had to reach through a [sic] 11 x 14 1/2 inch opening into the back seat, which was virtually impossible to do while driving the cab, as Jennings claims. For Ammar to have been able to reach back to the right rear passenger seat, he would have to leadn through the opening to do so."

Perkowski wrote that Jennings agreed to take a polygraph exam—that is, a lie detector test—but "Attorney Riccio called to cancel the test on 2/10/12, citing other court obligations on that date. Attorney Riccio also stated he saw no benefit to his client by taking the polygraph."

Correction: Jennings is accused in court documents of making a single bigoted statement, not statements, as Darien police initially announced in a news release.

Editor's notes:

See also: ""

This article originally was published Monday, March 5. The time stamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Home page of Darien Patch.

Be Investigative July 19, 2012 at 11:38 AM
That's an interesting argument Margot and I think I agree with you. The bottom line is that there will be people (perhaps even jurors or a judge) that will agree that Jennings was kidnapped and, therefore, was entitled to do whatever it takes to free himself. Establishing that he was kidnapped isn't the controversial in the least given the driver's admissions on this point. So, nor should the establishment of the self defense argument. Frankly, the driver is very fortunate that all he got is a tiny little cut on a finger. If he had kidnapped someone bigger, angrier, etc., he probably would have taken an enormous fist to the head from the passenger to make the driver stop. Damage could have been far worse. As for establishing where the driver was going ... it doesn't matter. He could have been taking Jennings to the DPD, to church, to the grocery store, whatever. If he was taking Jennings anywhere against Jennings will, then Jennings had every right to defend himself.
Chris Noe July 19, 2012 at 12:10 PM
"Stop the car" did not work as the cabbie sped toward tge highway. The next level is to display the knife and say,' I have a knife, stop tge car'. Thus us when the driver turned 45 degrees in the seat and snatched the knife from Jennings hand cutting himself in tge process. Realizing he cut his hand he stopped Jennings jumped out and ran fir his life.
Be Investigative July 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM
How is it, then, that we aren't having any difficulty figuring out what could/may have happened here, yet the DPD all had the heads up their a-ses???
Chris Noe July 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM
The cab driver had painted a criminal. The cops for two weeks had salivated probably had wet dreams if being a hero and important (never justify their existence) probably fantasized about how 'the perp' would go down peacefully or in a blaze of glory right here in Dsrien. The cops fantasies dashed when a banker walks in and admits to it. You need to understand how pitful It is to be a cop in thus town The "preppy rapist" case is long fir gotten everyone has moved on with their lives except the cops are still there stagnating. Jennings showed up without a lawyer expecting to tell his side if tge story and go back home. The cops need to feed their egos, they were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice instead they did home work with their kids. Jennings got beat up on by the cops. He is a banker he no experience with union labor. Now he has a great lawyer to protect him from our police department.
Be Investigative July 19, 2012 at 01:03 PM
If Jennings has charges dismissed or gets acquitted across the board, those cops are gonna wish this never happened as they ruined the life of one our town's residents. They had no right to do that. And, given what I'm sure Jennings has already lost in terms of legal fees, career damage, and countless other issues, he is surely smart enough to know he has an enormous case against the DPD. This is gonna be fun to watch.

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