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Banker due back in court in cabbie hate crime case

By Michelle Conlin

STAMFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - The Morgan Stanley investment banker accused of a hate crime in the assault of an Egyptian-born taxi driver over a fare is due back in a Connecticut court next week.

The charges against William Bryan Jennings stem from a taxi ride he took from New York City to Connecticut after drinking at a Morgan Stanley holiday party last December.

Authorities have said that taxi driver Mohamed Ammar, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen, had agreed with Jennings on a fare of $204 before leaving Manhattan for Jenning's home in the wealthy town of Darien, Connecticut, about 40 miles away.

When they pulled into the driveway of Jennings' $2.7 million mansion about an hour later, a fight broke out inside the cab.

Darien Police said Jennings threatened Ammar and used racial slurs. They said he then took a pen knife from his briefcase and stabbed Ammar in the hand. The wound required six stitches.

Jennings was arrested on February 29 and placed on leave from his job as co-head of U.S. bond underwriting.

He pleaded not guilty on March 9 in Superior Court in Stamford, Connecticut, to charges of intimidation as a hate crime, theft and assault. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 11 years in prison.

Jennings was due back in court for a status hearing on Thursday, but the proceeding was postponed to April 17.

On March 29, Jennings' lawyer, Eugene Riccio, asked a judge to toss out the criminal case against his client on the grounds that the taxi driver "told a completely different story" to police on separate occasions about the taxi ride. Riccio argued that Ammar even contradicted himself on several occasions.

In one example cited in his motion to dismiss, Riccio said that on the night of the incident Ammar did not mention to police that Jennings had used a racial slur. He only brought it up a week later, Riccio argued in his brief.

Jennings may also face a civil lawsuit from Ammar. Hassan Ahmad, Ammar's attorney, said, "Our client wants Mr. Jennings to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Morgan Stanley spokesman Pen Pendleton declined to comment, other than to say Jennings was still on leave.

(Editing By Barbara Goldberg)

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