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Bob Lee killing: Nima Momeni can get fair trial in San Francisco, DA says

A man wears a mask in a courtroom.
Nima Momeni, the suspect who has been charged with murder in the killing of Cash App founder Bob Lee is in court at the Hall of Justice on May 18, 2023.

In the latest twist in the Bob Lee murder case, the San Francisco District Attorney’s office has argued that Nima Momeni’s chance for a fair trial has not been affected by media coverage or the notoriety of his alleged victim.

Momeni’s attorneys had previously argued their client could not get a fair trial in San Francisco because of what they called unfair press coverage and the fact that the victim was so well regarded in the tech community.

But the DA’s Office countered the defense in a Jan. 18 filing, saying that Momeni’s legal team gave little to no evidence to support their claim that media coverage and Lee’s notoriety in the tech world and San Francisco would negatively impact the jury pool.

A group of people walk down a court house hallway.
Nima Momeni's mother, Mahnaz Momeni, and his lawyers Bradford Cohen, Tony Brass and Saam Zangeneh walk outside of court in San Francisco on Thursday. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

“The defense, in fact, fails to present any evidence at all in support of this motion,” the motion said. 

Both sides’ arguments were meant to be heard Thursday before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Eric Fleming. However, his ruling was postponed to Feb. 22, when Momeni’s attorneys plan to file additional material in their motion to have his case heard out of the county. 

Momeni, who has been charged with murder, is accused of stabbing the 44-year-old Lee under the Bay Bridge on April 4 over a dispute involving Momeni’s sister, Khazar. From the start, the case has been characterized by bombastic rhetoric, big personalities and intense media coverage. Lee was the chief product officer of MobileCoin at the time of his death, and previously served as the CTO of Square, where he was known for his work developing the mobile money transfer platform Cash App. 

Thursday’s hearing, and its postponement, is the latest maneuver in the case’s pretrial proceedings. Momeni’s legal team, headed by Saam Zangeneh and Bradford Cohen, filed a motion on Nov. 30 seeking to move the trial out of the city. 

In their motion, the attorneys argued any local jury pool would be biased due to what they characterized as unfair media coverage focusing on Momeni’s family, their private lives, his roots in Iran and photos published by The Standard showing Momeni in jail. 

Five family members of Bob Lee walk out of court.
Bob Lee’s father, Rick Lee, his brother Timothy “Oliver” Lee, and ex-wife Krista Lee leave court in San Francisco on Thursday. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

The attorneys also argued that because there are so many tech workers in the Bay Area who supposedly revered Lee, finding impartial jurors would be hard.

The defense motion also claimed that Momeni’s first attorney, Paula Canny, undercut the new legal team from the start. It claimed that she handed over Khazar Momeni’s cellphone to police without a warrant, court order or a request from the district attorney, and that she met with former Mayor Willie Brown to discuss the case. 

Canny denied those allegations after they were made public last year. 

“If they want to vilify me, OK, because they know that I’m never going to comment beyond what I said about it not being true,” she told The Standard in November

Surveillance photo of two men in an elevator.
A still image taken from surveillance footage obtained by The Standard of Bob Lee and Nima Momeni during the early morning hours of April 4, 2023, in Downtown San Francisco. | Source: Superior Court documents

Canny withdrew from representing Momeni in May and was replaced by Cohen and Zangeneh, who are based in Florida and do not regularly practice law in California. 

The prosecution, meanwhile, said that the defense claims about Canny and Brown are not supported by evidence and are based on “rumor” and “hearsay.”

Momeni’s legal team is being assisted by Tony Brass, a San Francisco attorney, who said Thursday that motions for a venue change are hard to win. 

“I’m not necessarily saying we’re gonna have a hard time winning it. There’s real merit to our motion,” he said.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at