Nima Momeni, the alleged killer of Cash App founder Bob Lee, has yet to enter a plea on the murder charges he faces, after his attorney on Tuesday requested another delay in her client’s arraignment.
The chaotic court date was the third attempt to arraign Momeni, and came the day after Lee’s autopsy was released unusually quickly after his April 4 death.
The reports from the Medical Examiner’s Office indicated that Lee’s cause of death was his stabbing, but also said that drugs and alcohol were in his system when he died.
In the courtroom, journalists argued over the positions of their cameras, and a woman in the audience shouted that news cameras were recording her group against their will — making it difficult to catch the brief exchange between the judge and attorneys and Momeni.
Momeni and his attorney, Paula Canny, however, appeared calm and confident. Canny immediately requested a new court date of May 18.
“I trust in my legal team, your honor,” Momeni said, when asked by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Victor Hwang if he was in agreement. He was advised to adjust his response to a simple “yes.” Momeni has been incarcerated at the county jail since his arrest on April 13, and is being held without bail.
Lee’s family and friends, who filed out of the courtroom as they did last week, were not so happy with the delay.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Lee’s ex-wife, Krista Lee, as she left the courtroom.
The arraignment, during which Momeni was scheduled to hear his charges and enter a plea regarding his guilt, can be delayed indefinitely by the defense team, said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins in a press conference after the hearing.
“The minute you enter a plea, under California law, you have to make a decision about whether or not you’re going to waive time — or not waive time — for a preliminary hearing,” said Canny after leaving the chaotic courtroom. If that right to a speedy hearing is waived, Canny said, the prosecution can then push off the preliminary hearing indefinitely. However, Momeni still intends to plead “not guilty,” she said.
Though she did not say how Lee’s toxicology report would affect her approach in the legal proceedings, Canny appeared to turn some of the blame back onto Lee.
At the time of his stabbing, Lee’s body was like “the Walgreens of recreational drugs,” Canny said after the hearing, and drugs could make people act “kind of losery and make bad decisions and do bad things.” Canny declined to comment on whether Momeni had also used drugs the night of the stabbing.
This deflection, DA Jenkins said, was a common tactic by defense teams to “denigrate” victims.
“At this point, regardless of whether somebody has or has not done drugs, that does not give someone a license to kill them,” Jenkins said. “And so we are going to continue course with the facts that we know … ”
Prosecutors allege that Momeni was seen on security camera footage leaving Millenium Tower, where his sister lives, with Lee shortly before the stabbing. Earlier in the afternoon, a friend of Lee’s heard the two men arguing over what Lee had been doing with Momeni’s sister that day, and whether drugs had been involved.
After Lee and Momeni left the building together, prosecutors allege, both men can be seen on video stepping out of Momeni’s white BMW, and Momeni can be seen lunging at Lee before driving away.
The attack, the DA’s office alleges, was executed with a kitchen knife that investigators later found nearby — indicating that the killing was premeditated.
Momeni’s arraignment is now scheduled for May 18.