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Bob Lee case: Judge rules Nima Momeni to trial in fatal stabbing of tech exec

SAN FRANCISCO — After attorneys for Nima Momeni argued that he should face a reduced charge of manslaughter Tuesday, the judge in the case ruled that the suspect would go to trial on a murder charge for the fatal stabbing death of CashApp founder last April.

The judge made the ruling after Momeni’s team of attorneys called for the charges against their client to be reduced to manslaughter. 

Momeni’s attorney’s claim video of Momeni and Lee leaving Millenium Tower early the morning of Lee’s death did not show two people angry with each other and claimed there was no evidence of pre-meditation. Momeni’s defense attorney Saam Zanganeh went so far as to say that it was possible that Lee could have had the knife in his possession and noted that someone under the influence of drugs like cocaine and ketamine could behave irrationally.

After the attorneys made their closing arguments, the judge presiding over the case wasted little time in announcing Momeni would go to trial, facing one charge of murder. 

Momeni allegedly stabbed Lee on the 300 block of Main Street in the city’s Rincon Hill neighborhood during an early morning confrontation back on April 4. 

Momeni, 38, has been in jail since his arrest April 13. He has pleaded not guilty and faces 26 years to life if convicted.  

Earlier during the second day of testimony in the preliminary hearing, the assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Bob Lee went into detail about the fatal stab wounds that led to Lee’s death  

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KPIX reporter Lauren Toms was back in the courtroom for the second day of testimony.

Testimony continued Tuesday morning as Zanganeh cross-examined prosecution witness SFPD Sgt. Brent Dittmer regarding the knife allegedly used in the fatal stabbing that was found in an adjacent Caltrans yard.

The prosecution had previously noted that the knife was of the same brand — Joseph Joseph — found in Khazar Momeni’s apartment at Millennium Tower. Zanganeh suggested that the knife is a common brand that could be bought anywhere and said it could be a coincidence that Khazar had the same brand of the murder weapon that was found in the Caltrans lot.

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The cross-examination also noted that Bob Lee did not identify his attacker during the 911 call he made from his phone, despite the 911 operator repeatedly asking who was making the call. Lee and Momeni were inside the stopped BMW for roughly 10 minutes prior to the stabbing, testimony revealed, and that video cameras did not record the presence of any other person walking past the vehicle.

The first new witness called to the stand was San Francisco Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Ellen Moffatt, who performed the autopsy on Lee.

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During her initial testimony, Dr. Moffatt said she has performed over 8,000 autopsies and testified in court regarding roughly 140 autopsies. She noted that she did the autopsy on Lee over the course of two days, starting on April 5 and finishing on April 6.

Dr. Moffatt testified that Lee died as a result of multiple stab wounds, including one to his center-left chest that she noted was the lethal injury.  

Moffatt said that injury went through the soft tissue and muscle in between the fourth and fifth ribs before hitting the right ventricle of Lee’s heart and damaging a lung. She also noted that there was evidence of repair to the lung injury during surgery as doctors tried to save Lee’s life.

She also noted that Lee first came to the office classified as a John Doe before his identity was confirmed.

During cross-examination by Momeni attorney Tony Brass, Moffatt said she was unable to provide specifics on the weapon used. 

“I do think it was a knife here, but to the particulars of the knife, I cannot say,” Dr. Moffatt said.

Moffatt said she thought Lee was given more than one blood transfusion during surgery and was unable to tell the order the wounds were received, the time of the wounds or the speed of the blade entrance.

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She also noted that she wondered about a scrape on the back of his hand and whether it might be a defensive wound, but said the injury could be from another event. She confirmed there were no definitive defensive wounds.

Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai moved on to the next witness, a DNA expert and criminalist with the SFPD who confirmed he swabbed for DNA on the knife handle and blade. Talai asked step-by-step questions to confirm the validity of how DNA evidence was taken and processed. The witness responded that “nothing stood out that anything was handled inappropriately” and that all evidence collection was “within protocol.”  

During cross-examination, Attorney Zoe Aron of Momeni’s defense team questioned the witness, determining he only tested DNA swabs taken from the knife and not from Momeni’s clothing at the scene or from his BMW. Aron pressed the witness, who confirmed that it is nearly impossible to determine how or when DNA lands on an object, suggesting Momeni could have touched the knife in question far prior to the night of the stabbing.

Momeni’s defense introduced their first witness shortly before noon, bringing Sgt. Dittmer back to the stand for further questioning prior to the lunch recess. 

Lauren Toms contributed to this report.

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