In a surprise move, Nima Momeni, the man charged with killing Cash App founder Bob Lee, and his attorney, Paula Canny, have parted ways. Momeni has decided to hire a Florida-based lawyer with Persian roots instead.
On Tuesday morning, Canny announced a motion to withdraw as Momeni’s attorney. In the filing, she noted an “actual and irreconcilable conflict of interest” with her client, but did not offer further detail. When called for comment, Canny said she initiated the termination.
Momeni has hired Bradford Cohen of Fort Lauderdale and Saam Zangeneh, a Miami-based attorney who advertises being “100% Persian” in his Instagram bio. Zangeneh’s username, “legalsicario,” references gunmen and assassins.
Momeni, who is Iranian, is accused of stabbing Lee in the predawn hours of April 4 in the deserted Rincon Hill neighborhood. The killing, which may have stemmed from a dispute between the two men over Momeni’s sister, became national news and, prior to Momeni’s April 13 arrest, was framed as an example of out-of-control street crime in San Francisco.
Zangeneh’s office confirmed that he and Cohen have taken on Momeni’s case. But neither appeared in court Tuesday morning, nor did they send a representative.
Momeni, who appeared in orange jail garb and carried a legal pad with him, seemed confused, and looked over his shoulder into the gallery.
“I’m not sure if there was a problem with [them] appearing here today,” Momeni said to San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta M. Giorgi. Ultimately, he waived his 10-day preliminary hearing deadline and set a new court date for June 13 to set his hearing date.
Both Zangeneh and Cohen have taken on high-profile cases in the past. Cohen has represented rappers like Drake, Vanilla Ice and Kodak Black, and is reportedly a Donald Trump fan who appeared on The Apprentice in 2009.
Zangeneh represented Sigfredo Garcia, a hit man convicted of killing Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel in 2014, and both attorneys represented rapper Pooh Shiesty in a shooting case last year. Neither attorney is licensed in California.
“It’s both with great disappointment and relief that I’m here,” Canny outside the courtroom. She declined to elaborate on why she and Momeni are parting ways. “Shit happens in representing people. It’s just like that, you know?”
She said she is looking forward to her trip to Nepal in October, which she said would be “way more spiritually fulfilling” than her nearly two months representing Momeni has been.
Canny suggested that Momeni may not have made the right decision, and would “miss” her. She is a well-known criminal defense in the Bay Area, and has represented clients like Greg Anderson, the personal trainer of San Francisco Giants all-star Barry Bonds.
“I’m a really nice person. I’m super responsive … I’m professional. The quality of my work is really, really good,” Canny said. “You really think that if I was the new lawyer, I wouldn’t have had somebody be here for him?”