The crazy insane murder case of tech entrepreneur Bob Lee, the details of the prosecution's evidence for which were all laid bare on Friday, will no doubt make for some gripping courtroom drama, whenever the trial does take place.
We are not likely to hear too much more of the prosecution's evidence — which was detailed for a judge in order to argue for holding suspect Nima Momeni without bail — until the trial occurs, and that could be many months or a year from now. In the meantime, Momeni's lawyer, whom he retained on Thursday while she was on a two-week vacation in France, has made sure to comment to the press in his defense.
NBC Bay Area got Momeni's attorney, Paula Canny, on a Zoom call on Friday, and she spoke for several minutes about her reactions to the prosecution's detention motion — which, she says, would not be "admissible in any sort of confrontational proceeding" because none of the witnesses are named.
"Clearly they seem to think they have enough to make an arrest," Canny said, but she added that she had not seen or analyzed the evidence yet herself. She said that Lee's death was a "tragedy for everyone involved" and a "horrible situation," but she went on to assert — despite having seen the evidence — that she didn't see enough evidence to support a first-degree murder charge.
Canny added, "My client is a super nice person, and his family loves him and supports him, and there's so much more to this and there's a much greater backstory than is disclosed at all in the government's pleading."
"Based on the information I have, it's not a murder," Canny said. "It's just a murder charge."
Canny, it should be noted, markets her criminal defense practice on her website as being "aggressive" against prosecutors — and she must have come highly recommended!
Where Canny will end up going with her defense strategy remains anyone's guess, but the Chronicle got a few quotes from lawyers about the pre-meditation issue, which is potentially where Canny is going with this. Premeditation must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to get a first-degree murder conviction.
"This is a person who was in his vehicle with a kitchen knife — that’s not something most of us carry around at all times with us. And so this was something that he intended to do," says SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.
And there's the issue of the video of the stabbing itself, which is reportedly shot from a "great distance" — likely some grainy surveillance footage. It was one of the more shocking elements of the prosecution's filing on Friday, that they claim to have video evidence of the act itself, which is fairly rare in a case like this.
According to the DA's Office, in the court document, "The subjects are too far away from the camera to identify their faces." But Momeni was wearing a distinctive beanie and a white- and tan-colored jacket, which allegedly makes him identifiable in the footage — while Lee was wearing a black jacket. Per prosecutors, "After standing on the sidewalk for approximately five minutes, the subject wearing the light-colored top appears to suddenly move toward the other subject." After this, the video shows the man wearing the darker top stumble away, in the direction of where Lee was found.
Video also purportedly shows the figure in the lighter top dispose of something near a fence where police say the found the murder weapon.
"Regarding the video evidence we have: We would always love to have clear HD quality video that shows a crime," Jenkins said in her statement to the Chronicle. "That’s not always the case, but we do feel in this particular situation we do have sufficient evidence."
Former assistant DA Jim Hammer adds, to the Chronicle, "To the extent that they have video evidence, nailing down how the event took place, that could close the door on defense trying to argue a lower degree of homicide. If they have video of the entire encounter, it could seal the whole case. In most cases, you don’t have that."
Right. And Canny was offering commentary on evidence she had not seen.
Momeni is accused of murdering Lee around 2:30 a.m. on April 4 near the base of the western end the Bay Bridge, at the end of Main Street in San Francisco. Prosecutors say they have ample evidence of a conflict between Momeni and Lee over a relationship Lee had with Momeni's sister — and that evidence includes a text from Momeni's sister to Lee, possibly after the two men left her apartment in Millennium Tower, less than 30 minutes prior to the murder.
"Just wanted to make sure your doing ok cause I know Nima came wayyyyyy down hard on you and thank you for being such a classy man handling it with class love you selfish pricks," the text allegedly reads.
The nature of Lee's encounter, or relationship with Momeni's sister has not been disclosed, but a witness apparently told police there was a conflict about something "inapprpriate" that Momeni believed happened.
Momeni is due back in court for an arraignment, after Canny returns from Paris, and that is scheduled for April 25.