A judge denied a motion today to set bail for Nima Momeni, who has been incarcerated since April on murder charges for the stabbing death of Cash App founder Bob Lee.
Momeni’s defense attorneys argued that their client should be released on bail, saying — as they had in a two-day preliminary hearing over the summer — that Momeni was not a flight risk or a danger to the public.
After the stabbing, Momeni could have fled San Francisco, but “did the right thing” by obtaining a lawyer and awaiting his day in court, said Saam Zangeneh, Momeni’s lead attorney.
Prosecutor Omid Talai, however, said that no new evidence had come to light since the last attempt to release Momeni from jail and that, in fact, new findings on Momeni’s cell phone were even more incriminating.
“His own family, some of which is in court today, describes him as a lunatic and as psychotic,” Talai said. It is unclear which family members Talai was referring to: Momeni’s mother and sister were in attendance in court on Monday afternoon, both of whom appear in court to support him.
Mission Local has reported on accounts of Momeni’s history of erratic behavior and fascination with weapons.
The motion for bail, filed on Sept. 23, requested a $250,000 bail. Momeni offered to surrender his passport, submit to drug testing and be put under GPS monitoring.
Momeni has been in jail since his arrest at his Emeryville home on April 13, a week after Lee’s stabbing.
In the early morning hours of April 4, Momeni and Lee were leaving the home of Khazar Momeni, Nima Momeni’s sister. Momeni drove Lee to a nearby block in the Rincon Hill neighborhood, according to security footage. Momeni then allegedly stabbed Lee with a 3.5-inch kitchen knife brought from Khazar’s home, according to footage and prosecutors.
Prosecutors initially implied that Momeni was angry at Lee over a potential romantic relationship between Lee and Khazar Momeni. They pointed to text messages sent by Khazar Momeni to Lee that night, in which she thanked him for his patience and class when her brother “came wayyyyyy down hard” on him.
But Momeni’s defense attorneys disputed that there was bad blood between Lee and Momeni that night. “What you see is two people that are not having any sort of adversarial relations,” argued Zangeneh, referring to surveillance camera footage that showed Lee and Momeni departing Millenium Tower together in the early hours of April 4. “There’s nothing to suggest that there’s any kind of animosity.”
He argued that the prosecution’s characterization of Momeni as a premeditated killer was misleading. Instead, he said, the stabbing that happened several minutes later was “at best” a “heat-of-passion, sudden interaction.”
But the arguments the defense team made were contradictory, and did not convince the judge. Later, Zangeneh seemed to argue against his own “heat-of-passion” claim, saying that impassioned incidents typically involve repeated stab wounds — and that Momeni only stabbed Lee twice in the chest. Lee’s autopsy also showed a stab wound near his hip.
Momeni’s defense lawyers also repeated arguments they made during the preliminary hearing, in which they said Momeni had actually been upset with a different man that night, not with Lee.
Witness testimony presented during the hearing indicated that Khazar Momeni had been upset earlier that day after taking drugs at the home of Jeremy Boivin, an alleged drug dealer. What happened later between Boivin and Khazar Momeni appears to be a large part of the defense team’s strategy in absolving Nima Momeni — though it is unclear how that strategy will play out.
Zangeneh also argued that the stabbing was not pre-planned or committed “under cover of darkness,” pointing to the brightly lit area where Momeni allegedly lunged at Lee with a kitchen knife, then fled in his BMW, leaving the bloody knife behind.
The knife — which prosecutors allege matches the brand of one found in Khazar Momeni’s kitchen — was small and not an “extremely menacing” one, Zangeneh added.
Attorney Bradford Cohen added that Momeni would not have let Lee wander off after the stabbing had it been premeditated. In surveillance footage, Lee appears to walk away after the alleged stabbing, looking at his phone. Momeni can be seen driving away.
Both attorneys argued that Momeni was not a risk to the general public and should be released. Zangeneh pointed to other high-profile cases where murder suspects had been assigned bond, and called for Momeni to have the same.
“This is not a random act of violence … this is an isolated incident,” Cohen said.
After San Francisco Superior Court Judge Bruce Chan denied the motion for Momeni’s bail, Momeni’s mother, Mahnaz Tayarani, who has remained stoic during all of Momeni’s court hearings, became emotional and began to weep.
Zangeneh declined to answer whether he would try again to have Momeni released.
Momeni is expected to appear in court again on Oct. 25 to set a date for trial.