Nima Momeni's attorney, Paula Canny, told reporters Tuesday that crucial video evidence that prosecutors say shows her client stabbing Bob Lee is unclear.
Momeni, 38, is accused of fatally stabbing tech executive Lee beneath the Bay Bridge in San Francisco in the early hours of April 4 following a dispute involving the suspect’s sister. Momeni was arrested nine days later at his Emeryville loft and remains in custody.
“He’s gonna plead not guilty, and he’s gonna deny the special allegation and absolutely the plea will be not guilty," Canny told reporters outside the courtroom. “I don’t think you can see anything in the videos."
Prosecutors say Lee and Momeni drove together to a spot under the bridge, and they allege that video footage shows the two move close to each other shortly before the tech executive was found bleeding to death nearby.
Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai told the court that more than 20 members of Lee's family were in attendance Tuesday. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said at a press conference that Bob Lee's children were among the family members present in court.
Relatives of Momeni's were also in court, but notably absent was his sister, Khazar Momeni, who prosecutors say was at the center of a conflict between Lee and the suspect.
Momeni had been set to enter a plea on Tuesday, and attorneys in the case were expected to make arguments over whether he should remain in jail pending trial. However, Momeni's arraignment was pushed to next Tuesday, May 2, after a request from Canny.
Canny successfully argued to Superior Court Judge Victor Hwang that she needed more time to review discovery in the case. She plans to oppose the motion that her client remain in jail until trial.
“Given the many tribulations that the family has experienced it's so weird how life sort of prepares us to deal with horrible stuff," said Canny when asked how her client was doing. "So his past is challenging enough that he is mentally tough to deal with this. He prays. He prays a lot."
Nima Momeni will remain in custody without bail until next week's hearing.
Canny had told The Standard on Monday that her defense team was “actively investigating the background of the conduct of all the parties for the three or four days before the incident“ and that "a common theme that I’m seeing is heavy illegal narcotics use."
But asked after Tuesday’s brief court hearing if she could "talk about the drug use issues," she said, "No. […] It doesn’t help anybody to talk about that right now. And I’m super sensitive to, you know, Bob Lee’s family. I just think it would be cruel, and there’s no reason to do that now."
In the courtroom hallway Tuesday, Canny said that Momeni’s sister, Khazar, was not in court this time “partly because it was so traumatic when she came last time, with being inundated with all the cameras and stuff. I think it just completely freaked her out.”
Asked if Khazar Momeni was being questioned by police, Canny said "not at this time."
Prosecutors say Nima Momeni stabbed Lee after questioning him about whether his sister was doing drugs or anything inappropriate. Lee and Khazar Momeni were at the apartment of a suspected drug dealer on April 3 in the hours leading up to the stabbing, The Standard reported Monday.
Lee, 43, was the creator of the Cash App and chief product officer of MobileCoin. He was stabbed while on a trip to San Francisco from Miami.
His killing sent shockwaves throughout the tech community and grabbed headlines across the world. Because Lee was stabbed on a dark street, some assumed his attack was random and seized on his death to assail San Francisco’s politics. But the arrest in the case revealed that the killing was allegedly the result of a dispute between two people who knew each other.
Lee’s father, Rick Lee, mourned his son in a Facebook post the day after the killing. Rick Lee said he and his son moved to Mill Valley after Bob Lee’s mother died in 2019 and then relocated to Miami last October.
“Life has been an adventure with two bachelors living together, and I’m so happy that we were able to become so close these last years,” Rick Lee wrote. “Bob would give you the shirt off his back. He would never look down on anyone and adhered to a strict no-judgment philosophy.”
A later statement from the family posted online by Lee’s brother, Tim Oliver Lee, thanked police for making an arrest in the case.
“Our next steps will be to work with the District Attorney's office to ensure that this person is not allowed to hurt anyone else or walk free,” the family said.