William Bryan Jennings was a high-ranking Morgan Stanley executive who seemed to have it all - money, power, position - and then it quickly came tumbling down after he allegedly stabbed a taxi driver in a dispute over a fare. The Jennings case has gotten a fair amount of coverage in NY - it's been compared to the fictitious bond trader Sherman McCoy striking a Bronx high school student in Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities." Reuters profiles the two men involved. Some snippets:
Shortly after 6 p.m., as [a charity auction] wound down, Jennings walked across the street to the Morgan Stanley holiday party. The party was at the rooftop bar of the Ink48 Hotel, known for its leggy waitresses, bed-like rattan sofas and the panoramic views of Manhattan. Jennings said he had several more beers. It was around 10:30 when Jennings left the party. After searching for ten to fifteen minutes, he couldn't find the black town car ordered to take him home. So he flagged a yellow cab. Mohamed Ammar pulled over. Ammar said he thought Jennings, who was wearing a white shirt and olive coat, was drunk, according to the police report. The taxi driver said he and Jennings agreed at the outset that the fare would be $204, the amount dictated by the Taxi & Limousine Commission for the 43-mile journey to Darien. Jennings claims they never agreed on a specific fare amount.
Ammar says he asked for the $204, and that Jennings balked and said he'd give him $50. Ammar says he tried to call 911 from Jennings' driveway, as the TLC advises when there's a fare dispute, but that there was no cell phone service. Jennings says Ammar demanded $300 and that Jennings offered $160 instead. "I believed that he was trying to take advantage of me," said Jennings in a written report he submitted to police nearly a month later, on January 20. Both men agree about what happened next: Ammar backed out of the driveway and headed through town. Ammar says he told Jennings he was going to find the police. He alleges Jennings sneered that the police wouldn't do anything, because I pay "$10,000 in taxes." As the minivan sped through Darien, the tension escalated. By now, Jennings alleges, Ammar was driving through blinking red lights and stop signs. Jennings says the cab doors were initially locked and he couldn't get out, though he says he later managed to get the door open and Ammar continued driving the cab with an open door.
Jennings says he rooted around in his black briefcase for his cell phone and found a pen knife that he says he kept for opening the Christmas packages that had been arriving recently. He says he showed it to Ammar, and that Ammar grabbed it and then said, "you cut me." Darien detectives would later discredit Jennings' claim, saying it would have been impossible for Ammar to grab the knife from Jennings through the narrow cab partition. Ammar told police that after Jennings took out the pen knife, he began stabbing towards Ammar's neck and cut the taxi driver's hand, which later required six stitches. According to Ammar, Jennings cursed at him and then shouted "I'm going to kill you. You should go back to your country!"
Jennings has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, larceny for not paying the fare and intimidation with racial slurs. If convicted of all three charges, Jennings, he faces up to 11 years in prison. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley has already placed him on leave.