In another move to end the case against a Morgan Stanley banker charged with stiffing and stabbing a Queens, N.Y., cab driver, Bridgeport lawyer Gene Riccio has filed a supplemental motion to dismiss the case based on “false statements and material omissions” filed by Darien Police in the arrest warrant.
The “arrest warrant… that was executed by Det. Chester Perkowski of the Darien Police Department… and which was subscribed and sworn to before Lt. Ronald Bussell… contains false statements that were made knowingly and intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth, and also omits material facts,” the motion stated.
Lt. Bussell would not comment on Riccio’s many criticisms against the department’s investigation. “We put in the facts, we give it to the court, and they make the decision,” Bussell told The Darien Times.
Among the problems with the arrest of Riccio’s client, William Bryan Jennings, is that the affidavit includes testimony made by Queens cab driver Mohamed Anmar that was not thoroughly vetted by police, according to Riccio.
Jennings pleaded not guilty to felony hate crime, felony assault and larceny, and faces the charges after not paying the cab fare from Manhattan to his Darien home in December. While arguing over amount of the fare, Jennings pulled out a knife and ending up cutting the cab driver’s hand, although it’s unclear whether the cuts were intentional as the two men have conflicted recollections of the event.
Jennings waived his right to a jury trial in early May, “to expedite the adjudication of the case,” Riccio said.
Inconsistencies between Anmar’s initial statement and a later written statement were pointed out earlier by Riccio, and now he’s noted that Anmar’s testimony — which was the major factor in arresting Jennings — has more holes.
For example, in his second statement to police, Anmar told them that Jennings agreed to pay the $204 flat rate fare from Manhattan to Darien, as that is “the fare governed by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission,” Anmar said in the statement. However, as Riccio points out, the fare to Darien is categorized as Rate Code 5, meaning the fare must be agreed to beforehand and then it must be entered into the taxi’s meter. There is no set rate for that trip governed by the taxi commission.
The “affidavit fails to reflect that neither of these required actions were taken by Anmar with regard to this fare,” Riccio stated. A print out sheet of Anmar’s meter from that night indicated that he did not enter the fare into his meter before taking Jennings home.
“Had that basic investigative work been done, the untruthfulness of these assertions would have readily surfaced,” Riccio stated, referring to the Darien Police’s investigation. Allan Fromberg, a spokesperson for the Taxi & Limousine Commission, confirmed that taxi drivers are supposed to enter the agreed fare before driving to a destination outside the normal jurisdiction.
Anmar showed police a rate book that stated the $204 fare from Manhattan to Darien, although Fromberg said these books are not sanctioned for use by the taxi and limousine commission, and only serve as a guide. The fine for not agreeing to a fare beforehand is $100 and two points against a driver’s license, as is the fine for not entering the fare into the meter, according to city statute.
Additionally, police stated in the arrest warrant that it would have been “virtually impossible” for Anmar to reach back for the knife that Jennings held, which led to Anmar’s hand being cut. Riccio said that the interior of the taxi was examined by himself and the prosecution and it was learned that reaching back would have been possible. Attempts to contact Steven Weiss, prosecuting attorney, to confirm Riccio’s statement, were unsuccessful.
This “assertion of impossibility was one of the three critical reasons” for the arrest, the motion stated, “along with (Jennings) not calling the police on the night of the incident and his refusal to submit to a polygraph examination…”
Anmar told police he thought Jennings was trying to stab him in the neck and defended himself with his right arm while steering with his left hand. Jennings said Anmar tried to take the knife from him, which cut Anmar’s hand. Det. Perkowski, who has been on the Darien Police force for 24 years, stated in the arrest warrant that his investigation “discredits Jennings’ statement that Anmar reached into the back of the cab while he was driving.”
There are also disagreements between Riccio and Darien Police over a polygraph test that was never administered. Riccio said he canceled the test scheduled for Jennings because police would not drop the charges if he passed. The arrest warrant states that Riccio canceled the lie detector because he had other court obligations, and he also saw no benefit to Jennings taking the test.
The rationale for Jennings’ actions immediately following the stabbing was also omitted from the arrest warrant, Riccio claimed. In the warrant, police only state that Jennings said he never came forward because he wanted the matter to go away. Police excluded elements of Jennings’ statement that revealed his fear that if he came forward, the driver would find out who he was and where he lived, and that he feared for his wife and children.
Police, however, considered that fear even more reason for Jennings to call police immediately. Jennings came forward nearly two weeks after the incident, when a friend read a report in The Darien Times and told Jennings about it. Jennings then called Riccio on Dec. 28, they met on Jan. 2, and went to police on Jan. 4. The arrest warrant wasn’t issued until Feb. 16.
Jennings admitted to police that he drank several beers at a holiday party before getting his ride home. Dr. Norman Klein, a forensic psychologist with more than 30 years experience, said that facts often become distorted over time, and alcohol consumption can exacerbate memory problems.
“Memory can be notoriously faulty over time, especially if it is of an event fraught with stress and trauma,” Klein said.
Riccio also says that the claim that Jennings said the police wouldn’t bother him because he pays $10,000 in taxes did not come from initial statements given by Anmar, nor did it come into light that Jennings screamed racial slurs at Anmar until Anmar’s later statement.
“In light of this repeated conduct by Det. Perkowski throughout the affidavit… the court was presented with an affidavit that was distorted to present Anmar’s assertions in the most favorable, albeit erroneous, light possible and (Jennings’) position in the least favorable, also erroneous, manner possible,” the motion stated. “These gross and repeated misrepresentations are diametrically at odds with the legal obligation of (police) in the warrant process.”
Bussell this week stood by the police investigation and arrest warrant. “We are not biased,” he said. “We are not biased either way.”
Riccio contends that Jennings was the victim of abduction, although no charges have been filed against Anmar. Anmar has retained the law services of Hassan Ahmad of Ahmad Naqvi Rodriguez in Manhattan. Ahmad has not returned numerous requests for comment, but has previously said that his client “wants justice,” and that “he wants the defendant prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“We’re discussing all our legal options,” Ahmad said in March.
Jennings has since been put on indefinite leave from his position as the co-head of fixed income capital markets in North America at Morgan Stanley. Under Connecticut’s hate crime statute, Anmar could seek civil damages from Jennings. If convicted, Jennings faces up to 10 years in prison and a $10,500 fine.
Originally published in The Darien Times.