After two weeks of delays and the last-minute disqualification of a key witness, the hotly anticipated murder trial of 31-year-old Tiffany Li and her onetime boyfriend Kaveh Bayat got underway on Monday.
In opening statements, attorneys for Li and Bayat presented a starkly different scenario for the 2016 death of 27-year-old Keith Green, who was the father of Li's two children, from the prosecution's version. As the Associated Press reports, San Mateo County prosecutors allege that Li and Bayat killed Green in the garage of Li's Hillsborough mansion and then paid Bayat's bodyguard, an MMA fighter named Olivier Adella, $35,000 to dispose of Green's body. The motive, prosecutors say, was the Li feared she might lose custody of her two young daughters.
Green's cellphone was discovered in Golden Gate Park, and two weeks after he disappeared Green's nearly nude body was found near a dirt road in Sonoma County.
Defense attorneys say that Adella killed Green in a botched kidnapping plan, and that Li and Bayat had nothing to do with it.
Complicating matters in the trial is the fact that Adella was re-arrested the week before last for violating a plea agreement he had with prosecutors. Defense attorneys say Adella contacted an ex-girlfriend via Instagram who was planning to serve as a defense witness, testifying to alleged abuse she suffered from Adella. Adella has now lost his plea deal — he had previously pleaded no contest to being an accessory to murder — and will not be testifying against Li and Bayat.
As the AP noted earlier, "Green and Li met around 2009 when he was 21 and she was 23. He was a high school football star from a blue-collar neighborhood while Li was rich and educated." Li and her mother would ultimately pay for Green to attend cooking school in San Francisco, but the pair broke up sometime before an alleged argument that occurred in a Millbrae pancake house over their children's custody — an event that precipitated the murder plot, prosecutors say.
While Bayat has sat in prison, Li has been under house arrest for the past two years awaiting trial. Her mother and family friends famously put up $4 million in cash and $62 million real estate assets for her bail — her bail was set at $35 million, and in California real estate can be put up in twice the cash bail amount. The trial had previously been scheduled to start last year and was delayed after Li was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, for which she underwent aggressive treatment. She is now said to be in remission.
The court was reportedly packed on Monday, as KPIX reports, and the jury consists of ten women and six men.
Opening statements in the case are reportedly going to continue on Tuesday.