SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A San Francisco judge allowed media cameras inside a courtroom for the first time Tuesday in the Bob Lee murder case.
The defendant, 38-year-old Nima Momeni of Emeryville, is charged with one count of murder for the death of a Bay Area tech mogul, 43-year-old Lee.
Twenty of Lee’s family members and friends sat in the courtroom gallery, and they were disappointed after Momeni declined to enter a plea. Lee is survived by his two children, ex-wife, and father.
“Lee’s children were in court today. Imagine having to repeatedly come back to court, all to have nothing happen,” District Attorney Brooke Jenkins told reporters.
Momeni’s defense attorney, Paula Canny, convinced the judge that she needs more time to review a mountain of evidence before her client will be ready for arraignment. Canny said she still needs to review “all the affidavits in support of search warrants, I’m asking for the police reports, I’m asking for all the photographs … autopsy photos.”
Momeni wore orange San Francisco Jail inmate clothing and he appeared relaxed in court as he chatted with Canny. The judge allowed media photographers to record video and prohibited any audio from being recorded.
Jenkins said Tuesday’s arraignment should not have been delayed. “If anyone knows the most about this case, it’s Mr. Momeni. Mr. Lee is deceased. (Canny) has access to her client and any information that she needs from him, as well as a substantial amount of evidence that we have already provided. We were expecting this to go forward today. The family of Mr. Lee is very disappointed that it did not move forward today.”
The wealthy Cash App founder was stabbed to death in San Francisco’s Rincon Hill neighborhood at 2:30 a.m. on April 4. San Francisco prosecutors said Momeni drove Lee to a dark and secluded area under the Bay Bridge, stabbed Lee in the chest with a kitchen knife, sped off in a white BMW, and left Lee to die alone.
Momeni is the San Francisco Police Department’s sole suspect. Prosecutors said a young woman, Khazar Elyassnia, connected the two men. Elyassnia is Momeni’s younger sister.
“She appears to be the link between the two gentlemen,” Jenkins said.
Lee was stabbed in the heart just hours after a witness saw Momeni confront Lee about his relationship with Momeni’s younger sister, prosecutors wrote in court documents. Momeni “was questioning (Lee) regarding whether his sister was doing drugs or anything inappropriate,” court documents revealed.
The witness was unsure if Lee and Elyassnia were involved in a romantic relationship, but they had all hung out on April 3 drinking together and socializing.
Elyassnia attended Momeni’s first court appearance on April 14. She was swarmed by cameras and declined to answer any questions from reporters. While cameras were still banned inside the courtroom on April 14, Elyassnia showed support for her brother by holding up her hands in the shape of a heart.
Canny said Elyassnia chose to not attend Tuesday’s court proceeding because her first courthouse experience was too “traumatic.”
Momeni was the last person seen with Lee alive. Surveillance cameras recorded Lee arriving at Millennium Tower and going to Elyassnia’s apartment at 12:39 a.m. on April 4, court documents revealed. At 2:03 a.m., cameras show Lee and Momeni riding an elevator down to the tower’s lobby. “The two gentlemen in the early morning hours leave the Millennium Tower together,” Jenkins said.
Lee’s final moments were recorded by surveillance cameras at Portside apartments in the upscale Rincon Hill neighborhood at 2:35 a.m.
Minutes later, police officers found Lee unconscious and bleeding from fatal stab wounds on Main Street. The murder weapon was a kitchen knife, Jenkins said.
Canny said Momeni plans to plead “not guilty” when he returns in court on May 2. He remains locked in jail with no bail.