The murder suspect in the fatal stabbing of tech executive Bob Lee in Downtown San Francisco will head to trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Prosecutors presented their murder case against Nima Momeni during a two-day preliminary hearing this week in San Francisco Superior Court, where they argued that video, text messages and DNA on a knife provided sufficient evidence to send Momeni to trial.
"I am not going to ask you to speculate, as I think you were being asked to do for the last hour," Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai told the judge Tuesday afternoon, referring to alternative narratives pushed by the defense. "He's not charged of being a smart murderer. His incompetence is not evidence of his innocence."
Superior Court Judge Harry Dorfman ruled just after 2:30 p.m. that Momeni would indeed face trial.
"The evidence shows that Mr. Momeni's DNA is found on the knife and Mr. Lee's blood was found on that knife," Dorfman ruled.
"A decision was made to kill," he added.
Defense lawyer Saam Zangeneh unsuccessfully argued that his client might have committed manslaughter rather than murder.
"I think that when you look at the totality of the circumstances, all of what was presented can only result in a sudden heat-of-passion quarrel," Zangeneh said.
During the preliminary hearing, San Francisco police said that on April 4, they responded to reports of a stabbing on Main Street near Harrison Street at approximately 2:35 a.m. Officers say they found a man, later identified as Lee, suffering from stab wounds. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died.
Prosecutors said Momeni, a 38-year-old IT consultant who lives in Emeryville, killed Lee with a kitchen knife after the two men fought over Lee's interactions with the defendant’s sister, Khazar Momeni.
Prosecutors said Lee, 43, and Nima Momeni were captured on video leaving Khazar Momeni’s home and driving together to a spot beneath the foot of the Bay Bridge. The video shows the two close to each other, shortly before the tech executive was found bleeding to death nearby.
A silver knife with a black handle was found inside a locked California Department of Transportation parking lot near the scene on April 4, a police officer said in court. The knife handle had Momeni's DNA, and the blade had Lee's DNA, according to evidence submitted.
During testimony Tuesday, Zangeneh read notes from an interview conducted by Dittmer about how well Momeni and Lee were getting along before the stabbing.
Khazar Momeni allegedly told a man, whom Dittmer interviewed, that her brother and Lee were getting along.
“He had a conversation with the defendant’s sister, who characterized their relationship as 'bro-ing out,'" Dittmer said about his notes.
Zangeneh asked if that meant they were getting along and Dittmer said yes that is what he was told.
While Khazar Momeni conveyed this information to a friend who spoke to police, she did not herself agree to talk to homicide investigators, Dittmer said in court.
“Has the sister, Khazar, refused to be interviewed by you?" Talai asked.
Dittmer said he knocked on Khazar Momeni’s door to speak with her about what happened but she was not cooperative.
Lee's ex-wife, Krista, was present at the hearing.
"I’m not pleased he’s dead, but I’m pleased his murder will go to trial,” she said as she left court.
"Is it what we hoped? It’s what we expected," Zangeneh said after the judge's decision. He added that the defense strategy will not necessarily be what was presented in court this week and that their client maintains his innocence.
One of Momeni's four attorneys, Tony Brass, said he expects Momeni's sister, Khazar, to testify in the trial.
Momeni will appear again in court on Aug. 15, at which point a new judge could be assigned and a date for trial proceedings could be set.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org