Those of you who have any degree of contact with the financial blogosphere no doubt caught the news today that one William Bryan Jennings, the co-head of fixed income for the Americas for Morgan Stanley, was arrested and charged with second-degree assault, theft of services and intimidation by bias or bigotry and released on bail of $9,500. He has been put on leave.
What does not appear to be in dispute is that Jennings took a cab home from a charity event in Manhattan to his home in Darien, CT on December 22. He refused to pay the driver the fare he requested. The driver received a cut in the hand that required stitches from Jenning’s knife in the resulting altercation. The hate crime charges come from the fact that the driver, who is Middle Eastern, also said that Jennings also made racial slurs.
The amusing part of this otherwise sorry tale is reading which news accounts have been influenced by the lawyer for Jennings, Eugene Riccio, versus the police, and there are Rashomon-level differences in key details. Predictably, the New York Times’ DealBook gives the Jennings version 7 1/2 paragraphs versus 1 1/2 for the police (and most of that comes in the form of the summary of the charges). Riccio also gets juicy quotes. Clusterstock also interviewed the attorney, and ran an entire post on it, with the headline: “ATTORNEY: Here’s The Real Story Of That Morgan Stanley Banker Charged With Stabbing A Cabbie–He’s The Victim!”
Riccio calls the incident a “criminal abduction” of his client. When the driver brought Jennings home, he says he demanded $294, which Jennings regarded as an extortionate price, well beyond what he was used to paying. He offered $160. The driver, incensed, proceeded to take him back to Manhattan. In the Clusterstock version, Riccio says Jennings was unable to escape because the cab was going too fast and the driver was running stop signs and lights (the Times account has that the driver locked the doors) The Clusterstock account is not at all clear as far as how the knife came into play in Jenning’s version; this is from the Times:
At that point, the driver sped away, with Mr. Jennings still inside, Mr. Riccio said. Mr. Jennings demanded to be let out of the car, then removed the knife from his bag as the driver neared a Connecticut Turnpike on-ramp. Mr. Riccio characterized the knife as a “pen knife” Mr. Jennings “uses for fishing,” and said that after the driver grabbed the knife, Mr. Jennings was able to exit the car and run roughly a mile back to his house.
Now I have to tell you, anyone who rides in New York city cabs will wonder about this scenario. Quite a few cabs have a plastic barrier between the passenger seats for the driver’s safety (they have a small tray for passing money back and forth, and many allow the barrier to be partly opened). So if the cab had a barrier, it is hard to see how the driver got hurt unless he chose to reach his hand in the back seat. And barrier or not, it is also hard to understand how the driver got his hand cut by Jenning’s knife (a point that does not seem to be in dispute) if he is driving pedal to the metal to get on the Connecticut Turnpike to prevent Jenning’s escape.
The Riccio account contains what appears to be some whoppers. Per the Times:
Mr. Jennings did not come forward to police immediately because, Mr. Riccio said, he had “fear for his safety and that of his family.”
Why does this matter? It speaks to the credibility of Jennings. The driver apparently called the Darien police immediately after the fight. It would seem pretty unlikely that a cab driver would even try lodging a complaint in a wealthy suburb, let alone have it taken seriously, unless it had some meat. And it’s implausible that a person in Darien would think that going to the police would put his family in danger.
The other credulity-straining part comes at the very end of the Clusterstock story:
Riccio said Jennings voluntarily came forward, identified himself as the man in the incident, and then cooperated with authorities…
We asked Lt. Ronald Bussell in Darien’s Police Department’s detective division about the incident. Lt. Bussell said Jennings did not come forward until two weeks after it happened.
Now we get to the other side of the account, from the police. They say the fare the cabbie wanted was $204, not $294, and that he said Jennings tried stiffing him. This is from the Wall Street Journal (which also clearly interviewed Riccio and quoted him much more sparingly than the Times or Clusterstock):
Mr. Jennings allegedly refused to pay the fare and cut the driver in the hand with a pen knife, the detective said. The injuries to the driver’s hand required stitches.
The driver called police following the incident, according to [Darien] Detective [Mark] Cappelli, and a warrant was issued for Mr. Jennings’s arrest.
At no point during the dispute did Mr. Jennings attempt to contact the Darien Police, though he contacted them approximately two weeks later, according to a Darien Police Department news release.
It isn’t clear whether Jennings got in touch with the police on his own or as a result of getting a heads up about the warrant.
Now the New York Post is not held in the highest esteem, but it has had some very good leaks on the hedge fund front and has also done some good original reporting in the mortgage space. But the Post says this section is based on 35 pages of records filed with the (note the contrast with the 10:58 AM version):
An allegedly “drunk” high-powered Morgan Stanley investment banker screamed ” I’m going to kill you, you should go back to your own country” before stabbing a terrified New York cab driver after refusing to pay the agreed fare to his Connecticut home, shocking court records obtained by The Post today charge.
“I felt like a I was going to die that night,” the 44-year-old Queens cabbie of Middle Eastern descent told Darien police about the alleged attack by W. Bryan Jennings, a Morgan Stanley bigwig who earns $2 million annually.
“He tried to stab me in the neck,” the cabbie said about the Dec. 22 assault in Darien, which left him with a cut to the hand from Jennings’ penknife after he warded off the blade, according to records.
The cabbie also told cops that Jennings, 45, initially refused to pay anything once they arrived at his Darien home after midnight, then offered him just $50 when the driver told him the fare was $204, as they had agreed on even before leaving Manhattan’s West Side.
When the cabbie drove away from the house to find a cop, Jennings allegedly told him “the cops wouldn’t do anything to him because he pays $10,000 in taxes,” police wrote in an arrest warrant application.
Court records also reveal that Jennings later admitted to cops that “he’d been drinking throughout the day” at a Morgan Stanley charity auction and holiday party at a West Side hotel before getting into the cab “but didn’t feel he was highly intoxicated.”
Only $10,000 a year in taxes in Darien? Reader sanity check please. I know people in Larchmont (admittedly with four acres) who pay more than triple that.
Hah, since I started this post and now, the NY Post account has yet another story on the fracas. It is still cab driver friendly. Instead we have:
But Darien Detective Cmdr. Ronald Bussell said Jennings became enraged and shouted the slurs when the cabby insisted he pay the $203 fare they had agreed on. When Jennings refused, the hack drove to nearby Post Road to find a cop, Bussell said.
“As he’s driving down there, the victim says, the passenger tries to stab him with a knife. He puts up his hands and gets stabbed in the hand,” said Bussell, adding the driver got six stitches.
Jennings then fled from the cab.
“Poor guy,” Bussell said of the driver. “He had to pay the cab fare” to the car’s owner because Jennings bolted.”
Now, even though this is piss poor if the driver’s charges are correct (and the local cops clearly think so), it pales in comparison to the 2010 case in which Morgan Stanley’s Joel Erzinger hit and run of a cycling New York doctor, Steve Milo, and paid his way out of a felony charge. Despite the severity of the injuries Milo received, and Erzinger’s horrific conduct, the DA seemed almost eager to let him off. The contrast in reactions is striking. Jennings may be on the receiving end of long overdue pushback against the rich being given slack when they don’t deserve it.