Islamic group rebukes judge’s ruling

Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

An Astoria cab driver and members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations gathered at a neighborhood mosque Monday to denounce a Connecticut prosecutor for dropping charges against a former Morgan Stanley banker who was accused of stabbing the driver.

“There is overwhelming evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt,” said Hassan Ahmad, the attorney for cab driver Mohammed Ammar.

William Bryan Jennings, who worked in Lower Manhattan and has a home in Darien, Conn., had been charged with assault, intimidation due to bias and larceny. Jennings had hired Ammar to take him home Dec. 22, 2011, and agreed to pay $204 for the about 40-mile drive, Darien Police said. When Ammar reached Jennings’ home, Jennings had supposedly refused to pay and an argument began, police said.

Jennings had been charged with injuring Ammar with a pen knife as Ammar drove away to try to dial 911 on his cellphone in a place where he could get a signal, police said.

CAIR said Jennings had also told Ammar, who is Egyptian by birth and an American citizen, to “go back to your country” and said he would not face repercussions because he pays “$10,000 in taxes a year.”

At the news conference, held at the Masid Dar-Al-Dawah Mosque, at 35-13 23rd Ave. in Astoria, Ahmad said after reporting the incident to the authorities Ammar had found the pen knife weeks later in his yellow taxi cab. Out of fear, Ammar did not tell authorities until several more weeks had passed.

Steven Weiss, supervisory assistant state attorney for Connecticut, ended up dropping the case because Ammar failed to produce the knife earlier, Ahmad said.

Eugene Riccio, attorney for Jennings, praised Weiss for dropping the case.

“We’re grateful for the prosecutor’s decision,” Riccio said. “In doing so, we felt that it was clearly the right thing to do under the circumstances.”

Riccio said his client had not committed any criminal offense.

Ammar, who said he was broken up by the dropped case, pointed out that he had been driving his taxicab for 10 years with no problems like this.

“I’m very sad. I’m very upset,” Ammar said. “It’s really, really unfair.”

Muneer Awad, executive director for CAIR’s New York branch, said they were calling on the Department of Justice to take on the case.

“It’s not only disgraceful, but it’s criminal,” Awad said.

Ahmad said Ammar was also mulling a lawsuit. He said his client made a mistake in not telling authorities about the knife but that the basic facts of the incident were not in dispute and that the prosecutor had planned to continue to go forward with the case for months after Ammar produced the knife.

“It’s absolutely outrageous,” Ahmad said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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