In a court hearing Thursday in which a trial date was expected to be set for murder suspect Nima Momeni, the defense team has filed a motion for a change of venue.
It's perhaps a predictable turn of events that, due to the assumed prejudices of the San Francisco populace due to the rabid media coverage of the case, defense attorneys in the Bob Lee murder trial want to get the trial moved far out of San Francisco. Similar changes of venue have been granted in the recent past for the Laci Peterson murder trial, which was moved from Stanislaus County to San Mateo County, and the Kristin Smart murder trial, which last year was moved from San Luis Obispo County to Monterey County.
As ABC 7's Melanie Woodrow reports from the courtroom today, Momeni's attorneys will be seeking a change of venue. Absent that motion being granted by the judge, a trial date has now been set for March 15.
Tentative March 15th trial for Nima Momeni (in absence of motion to change venue). Attorneys talking now about @sfstandard article which included pictures obtained of Momeni in jail which they say was “highly prejudicial.” Judge says SF Sheriff’s Office investigating. https://t.co/4x4fCfgoEj— Melanie Woodrow (@MelanieWoodrow) November 30, 2023
Momeni's attorneys, Tony Brass and Florida-based Saam Zangeneh, also reportedly voiced concerns in court Thursday over some "highly prejudicial" photos of Momeni in his jail cell which were taken by a photojournalist in the San Bruno jail where he has been awaiting trial. Those photos, shot in August, were published earlier this week by the San Francisco Standard, and appeared to be taken from just outside Momeni's jail cell, in San Francisco County Jail No. 3.
The photos were shot by freelance photojournalist Paul Kuroda, who is a frequent contributor to the Chronicle, and one assumes if they were shot in August that the Chronicle must not have wanted to publish them.
In the request for a change of venue, Zangeneh reportedly cited unfair media coverage of the case, and he specifically cited the publication of the photos. He also said Lee was like a "celebrity" among the city's tech community, per Mission Local.
Per Woodrow, the judge said that the San Francisco Sheriff's Department was investigating the photo situation.
A hearing on the motion for a change of venue is now set to occur on January 25.
The April 4th stabbing death of Bob Lee made national headlines, at first because it appeared to have been a random 2 a.m. homicide of a tech executive on the streets of San Francisco. Within days we learned that the suspect was a fellow tech entrepreneur, Nima Momeni, and the evidence suggests that Momeni was supposed to be driving Lee back to his hotel from Momeni's sister's condo at Millennium Tower, when the stabbing occurred.
Witnesses whose statements were already shared by police in court documents have suggested that Momeni was upset about something "inappropriate" that had transpired, involving his sister, earlier in the day, when she had been at a party with Lee.
Key evidence in the trial is expected to include surveillance video of Momeni and Lee leaving Millennium Tower together, and surveillance video that purports to show the stabbing taking place. Also, police found a bloody kitchen knife in the area that they say they can link back to Momeni's sister's kitchen.
Momeni's sister, Khazar Momeni, was arrested on Monday in the Tenderloin on suspicion of DUI and hit-and-run. Woodrow tried to get the Momenis' mother to comment on this outside the courtroom today, but she did not.
Nima Momeni’s mom had no response for how her daughter is doing following Monday’s arrest. pic.twitter.com/OPBx5OIsZq— Melanie Woodrow (@MelanieWoodrow) November 30, 2023
Update: As Mission Local adds from the courtroom, Zangeneh filed both the motion for the change of venue, and a motion claiming the prosecution had violated a court order by not yet releasing Momeni's car back to his family.
Top image: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 18: Nima Momeni arrives 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)