Bob Lee’s accused killer, Nima Momeni, appeared in a San Francisco court Tuesday in an orange jumpsuit and chains alongside his new legal team for the first time as a judge set his preliminary hearing for July 31.
The case of the slain Cash app developer has garnered international headlines and shone a spotlight into the private lives of tech industry workers, including alleged drug use and late-night partying.
Momeni’s mother as well as his sister, Khazar Momeni, and her husband, San Francisco plastic surgeon Dr. Dino Elyassnia, came to court Tuesday. Several family members made heart symbols with their hands and gestured to Nima Momeni as he entered the courtroom.
Momeni parted ways with his first attorney, Paula Canny, in late May. After the hearing Tuesday, his new legal team said it plans to create a new defense independent of anything done by Canny, who declared a conflict of interest on May 30.
“I am not gonna answer any more Paula Canny questions,” Saam Zangeneh, one of Momeni’s new lawyers, told reporters after the hearing.
In an outline of their evidence against Momeni, prosecutors have said he stabbed Lee in the Rincon Hill neighborhood on April 4, apparently after arguing over Lee’s relationship with Khazar Momeni.
Canny’s last legal efforts centered on getting additional evidence—including surveillance video and guest logs—from the building where Momeni’s sister lives, Millennium Tower. That request has been fought by the building’s lawyer. Lee and Nima Momeni, prosecutors say, visited the tower hours before Lee was stabbed.
Like the Momenis, Zangeneh is of Iranian descent and said that he was approached by a friend of the family to represent Nima Momeni. But he said he would go to great lengths to defend any client, no matter their ethnicity.
“Some will focus on my ethnicity. Yeah, I’m Persian. The prosecutor is Persian,” he said before dismissing the ethnic connections. He then made light of the focus on his background by pointing out that he’s changed his Instagram bio, which used to say 100% Persian. Now it says 101%.
Momeni’s new legal team also includes Bradford Cohen, who has a history of defending rappers in criminal cases. Both lawyers are based in Miami.
Prosecutors have argued that video and DNA evidence put Nima Momeni at the scene of the killing at the foot of the Bay Bridge. But Momeni’s former attorney, Canny, had argued that while there is no doubt her client was at the scene, he did not commit murder.
Nima Momeni is being held without bail in San Francisco. At his preliminary hearing July 31, prosecutors will begin to detail their case against him.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at email@example.com