A San Francisco judge was supposed to hear arguments Thursday about whether or not accused Bob Lee killer Nima Momeni can get a fair trial in San Francisco, or whether the trial should be moved to another county. But that didn't happen.
Defense attorneys Saam Zangeneh and Tony Brass, who are representing Momeni in the trial stemming from last April's high-profile murder, first delayed a morning hearing saying it was a mere "scheduling issue," and then sought a one-month continuance. As the Chronicle reports, they told Judge Eric Fleming that they had uncovered "extra information" that concerns their plight to get the trial moved out of San Francisco.
"We changed our strategy slightly," Zangeneh tells the Chronicle, going further to make a football-coach metaphor.
Whatever the new information is, Zangeneh told the judge that they would share it with the prosecution within 10 days.
A change of venue is likely a longshot, thought the attorneys are trying their best. Zangeneh and Brass filed a 12-page motion in late November arguing that Lee was like a "celebrity" among the city's tech community and a "hometown hero" — which is a bit of a stretch. They also argue that there has been too much unfair local media coverage in the case, and they specifically cited some sort-of innocuous jailhouse photos that were published in November by the SF Standard, which that publication continues to use to this day even though they've been reprimanded by the Sheriff's Office.
The lawyers argued that the photos were "highly prejudicial" for any potential jury pool — even though we've seen him in his orange jumpsuit in court via Getty Images and other outlets.
Judge Fleming agreed to a continuance on the matter until February 22.
It should be noted that, given the attorneys argument that Lee was this huge deal in the tech community, they don't really want to the trial moved down the Peninsula into Silicon Valley either, so that leaves them in a bit of a pickle.
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins filed her own 25-page rebuttal to the change-of-venu motion last week, and in it she argued that "Pervasive publicity alone does not establish prejudice." And she pointed out that change-of-venue requests were denied in much more high-profile cases, like that of Richard "the Night Stalker" Ramirez. Ramirez was tried and convicted in 1989 in Los Angeles, and then again in 1990 in San Francisco for murders he committed here.
Jenkins also argued that Momeni's legal team had not provided any substance to their claims that media coverage in the case had impacted public opinion.
Momeni stands accused of stabbing Lee in the heart on the morning of April 4 near Rincon Hill, shortly after the pair were seen on surveillance cameras leaving the Millennium Tower apartment of Momeni's sister Khazar. Court documents have so far revealed that Momeni was allegedly defending Khazar's honor, or avenging some sort of disrespect — and his defense has turned to vilifying a drug supplier with whom Lee and Khazar had apparently been socializing the previous day. There has also been some suggestion that self-defense will be part of the argument made by the defense side.
The full story should be revealed at trial.
Top image: 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)