SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco prosecutor’s office began laying out its case Monday against a tech consultant charged with murder in the stabbing death of Cash App founder Bob Lee, who was found bleeding on a deserted city street in April.
In the preliminary hearing, a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to go to trial.
Prosecutors have provided no motive and released little information in a case that has drawn outsized media attention, partly due to Lee’s status in the tech world. Lee created Cash App, a mobile payment service, and was the chief product officer of the cryptocurrency MobileCoin.
Nima Momeni, 38, has been in jail since his arrest April 13. He has pleaded not guilty, and he faces 26 years to life if convicted.
That came more than a week after Lee, 43, was found bleeding in a deserted part of downtown San Francisco early April 4. Lee was rushed to a hospital, where he died.
In making a motion to keep Momeni detained in jail without bail, prosecutors argued that he planned the attack, drove Lee to a secluded spot and stabbed him three times after a dispute related to Momeni’s younger sister.
Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai said at a May hearing that Momeni used a knife that was part of a unique kitchen set belonging to his sister. Analysis showed Momeni’s DNA on the weapon’s handle and Lee’s DNA on the bloody blade, Talai said.
Police recovered a knife with a 4-inch (10-centimeter) blade at the scene.
Momeni has hired two new lawyers, Saam Zangeneh and Bradford Cohen, both based in Florida. His first attorney, Paula Canny, withdrew in late May, citing a conflict of interest that she declined to disclose.
In arguing for bail, Canny said that Momeni was not a flight risk and would not leave the two people he loves most, his sister and mother. She said Momeni needs to fight the charges or face deportation to Iran, a country that his mother fled when the children were younger to escape a violent husband.
An unnamed friend of Lee told homicide investigators they had been hanging out and drinking with Momeni’s sister the day before the stabbing, prosecutors said in their motion to deny bail.
The friend said Momeni later questioned Lee about whether his sister was doing drugs or otherwise engaging in inappropriate behavior and Lee said she had not.
Surveillance video showed Lee later entering the posh Millennium Tower downtown, where Momeni’s sister Khazar lives with her husband, prominent San Francisco plastic surgeon Dino Elyassnia. Video footage then showed Lee and Momeni leaving the building together shortly after 2 a.m. and driving off in Momeni’s car.
Lee was found shortly after 2:30 a.m. in the Rincon Hill neighborhood, which has tech offices and condominiums but little activity in the early morning hours.