SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The man charged with murdering Cash App Founder Bob Lee in San Francisco is switching up his defense team with hopes of proving his innocence.

Nima Momeni hired a Florida-based celebrity attorney, Saam Zangeneh, this week and his lead defense attorney stepped down.

Zangeneh defended rapper Pooh Shiesty in 2021 for a Miami hotel shooting. The rapper pleaded guilty to a single firearms conspiracy charge in exchange for three more serious charges being dropped and less prison time.

Zangeneh’s colorful Instagram profile states that he is “101% Persian.” Zangeneh wrote on Instagram, “I fight tooth and nail. I fight high profile media cases, death penalty cases and cases others are afraid to touch. I do this because everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a ‘Champion’ that will fight next to him or her.”

Momeni, 38, of Emeryville, was born in Iran before he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as a teenager with his mother and sister, according to court documents.

Bob Lee
Homicide victim Bob Lee

A preliminary hearing was delayed in the Hall of Justice Tuesday when Momeni’s lead defense attorney, Paula Canny, suddenly announced she was stepping down from the case because of an irreconcilable conflict of interest. “Sh*t happens in representing people,” Canny told reporters at the courthouse. “I have my way, clients have their way.” She declined to say what the conflict was.

Momeni is accused of stabbing a wealthy tech executive in the heart during a clash over Momeni’s younger sister, Khazar Elyassnia. All of his court appearances have garnered national media attention and throngs of television cameras. In high-profile cases, “the first lawyer always gets dumped,” Canny told reporters.

Khazar Elyassnia arrives for the arraignment of her brother Nima Momeni on May 18, 2023 in San Francisco. Momeni pleaded not guilty. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

While Canny was building up a defense over the past several weeks, she previously hinted that it wasn’t a “who-done-it” defense. Rather, prosecutors failed to dig up evidence proving it wasn’t a self-defense killing, she hinted. There was no premeditation, she said.

Now that Canny’s off the case, we will never know exactly what strategy would have been used. “It is super interesting, but I’m not ever going to tell you,” Canny told reporters Tuesday.

Prosecutors say they have no doubt that they charged the right man with murder. San Francisco Police Department detectives found surveillance video showing Lee and his alleged killer leaving Elyassnia’s luxury apartment in Millennium Tower at 2:03 a.m. on April 4. The two men got into Momeni’s white BMW, drove southbound on Main Street, and parked in a dark area below the Bay Bridge.

About 30 minutes later, a gravely-wounded Lee called 911 reporting that someone had just stabbed him. He died on a trauma center’s operating table.

Nima Momeni stands up to exit the courtroom after an appearance at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco on April 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A witness told investigators that Momeni confronted Lee on April 3. That day, the Cash App founder had spent hours “hanging out” with Elyassnia, prosecutors said. “(Momeni) was questioning (Lee) regarding whether his sister was doing drugs or anything inappropriate,” court documents state.

Lee was an admired figure in the Bay Area tech industry. The divorced father of two served as chief product officer of cryptocurrency company MobileCoin, and was the former CTO of Square. A toxicology report revealed that Lee had alcohol and two party drugs, cocaine and ketamine, in his system when he was slain.

Police unlocked Lee’s cellphone and found a text message from Elyassnia. The text message said, “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,” court documents show.

Khazar Elyassnia wears sunglasses inside the Hall of Justice in San Francisco on May 18, 2023. (AP Photo /Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Police found a bloody kitchen knife near the crime scene, and prosecutors said the knife had been taken from Elyassnia’s kitchen.

Momeni was arrested nine days after the April 4 homicide. He pleaded not guilty.

Elyassnia wrote a letter to the judge last week defending her brother’s character. “He watches out for me. Nima is one year older than I am. We have been together our entire lives. Together with our mother we are a very close family. (We) are in near constant contact and have deep feelings of love for one another. My brother means the world to me,” she wrote in the letter.

Elyassnia wrote that her brother will not attempt to flee from the Bay Area because “I don’t believe we could live without each other.” Elyassnia even offered to post the value of her Millennium Tower apartment as bail. The apartment is owned by Elyassnia and her husband, a prominent plastic surgeon in San Francisco.

So far, the judge has not granted Momeni bail.

Earlier this month, Canny wrote an apology to Lee’s family for blasting his illicit drug use and calling him “the Walgreens of recreational drugs.” Canny had previously said, “What happens when people take drugs? What do drug people act like? Not themselves … kind of losery, and make bad decisions and do bad things.”

Momeni’s next court appearance is schedule for June 13. Lee’s ex-wife, teenaged children, and other family members plan on attending every court appearance as they wait for justice, prosecutors said.

bob lee
Bob Lee

Zangeneh’s former clients also include “The Facebook Killer” Derek Medina. The South Miami man killed his wife and posted a photo of her bloody body on Facebook. Medina was sentenced in 2016 to serve the rest of his life in prison.

Zangeneh wrote on Instagram, “Being a criminal defense attorney is kinda like being a poker player. If you show weakness, you lose. If you can’t handle insane pressure, you lose. If you can’t convince other players that your hand (which is garbage) is gold, you lose.”

While Zangeneh is getting up-to-speed on the Bob Lee murder case and prepares for a preliminary hearing, Momeni remains locked in a San Francisco jail. The hearing will determine if the District Attorney’s Office has enough evidence for the case to move forward to a trial.