Welp, the legal circus shows no signs of quieting in the murder trial of Nima Momeni, and what was supposed to be a preliminary hearing in the case Tuesday has become another reason for delay: defense attorney Paula Canny asked to be removed from the case.
Canny was either fired by Momeni or has decided to quit. As Mission Local reports from the courtroom, Canny made a motion to withdraw from the case citing an "actual and irreconcilable conflict of interest" with Momeni — so that's curious. Perhaps Momeni or his family was dissatisfied with Canny's public handling of the case so far, or with her strategy — which seemed to be leaning toward a self-defense argument.
Update: Per the Chronicle, Canny said outside the courtroom, "I can’t divulge the nature of the conflict. … It is super interesting, but I’m never going to tell you." Canny also alluded to the fact that she may not yet have been paid fees that are owed her.
In Canny's stead, Momeni said he has hired Florida-based attorneys Saam Zangeneh and Bradford Cohen, neither of whom were present in court on Tuesday. As Mission Local notes, Zangeneh's Instagram account shows him advertising that he is "100% Persian."
Posts on that account feature Zanganeh giving advice about never "saying a fucking word" to cops or anyone with a badge, besides the word "lawyer," and one in which he is jokingly threatening legal action or "street justice" against whoever invented sliding doors on toilet areas in homes.
Canny was characteristically candid in comments to Mission Local outside the courtroom, saying, "It’s both with great disappointment and relief that I’m here,” but she did not explain what exactly went down between her and former client. "Shit happens in representing people. It’s just like that, you know?"
Canny also seemed to show a bit of bitterness, telling Mission Local that Momeni would likely "miss" her later.
"I’m a really nice person. I’m super responsive… I’m professional. The quality of my work is really, really good,” Canny tells Mission Local. And, referring to the fact that no lawyer appeared today for Momeni, she said, "You really think that if I was the new lawyer, I wouldn’t have had somebody be here for him?"
Momeni faces a murder charge and a seeming raft of evidence that appears to put him with victim Bob Lee in the hours and minutes before he died, allegedly arguing over something to do with Momeni's sister. The pair were seen riding in an elevator together about a half hour before the stabbing, and getting into Momeni's car together, after leaving the sister's condo in Millennium Tower.
Canny has spent several weeks speaking to reporters, talking about how nice Momeni is and how well loved he is by his family, and last week we began hearing her suggesting that self-defense would be their argument for how Lee ended up stabbed multiple times.
Momeni's sister, Khazar Elyassnia, has appeared in court for her brother multiple times, and will likely be called as a witness in the case, having apparently been one of the last people to see Bob Lee alive, and interact with him via text messages.
Friends have suggested that Lee and Elyassnia had some romantic link in years past, and that they were both attending a party the afternoon before the stabbing took place. Prosecutors have said they have at least one witness who said that Momeni was upset about Lee's behavior toward his sister, and/or was questioning him about sharing drugs with her.
Momeni, who pleaded not guilty two weeks ago, is expected back in court on June 13 to set a new hearing date, which gives his new legal team just two weeks to get up to speed on the case.
Top image: Attorney Paula Canny, left, and Nima Momeni, right, in court at the Hall of Justice on May 18, 2023 in San Francisco, California. 38 year-old tech entrepreneur Nima Momeni was arraigned today in a San Francisco courtroom in connection with the stabbing murder of Cash App founder Bob Lee. Momeni pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. (Photo by Paul Kuroda-Pool/Getty Images)