Watch CBS News

Bob Lee case: Momeni appears in court with new legal team

First day in court for new defense team in Momeni murder trial
First day in court for new defense team in Momeni murder trial 02:15

SAN FRANCISCO – Nima Momeni, the man accused of fatally stabbing CashApp founder Bob Lee, appeared in a San Francisco courtroom Tuesday with a new defense team.

During the hearing, the judge in the case rescheduled the preliminary hearing to July 31 at 9 a.m. Momeni's family was in court for the proceeding.

The hearing was the first after an unexpected shakeup in his defense, when Momeni and defense attorney Paula Canny parted ways.

"Whatever happened in the past is in the past," Momeni's new defense attorney Saam Zanganeh told reporters. "We are fresh eyes, fresh perspectives."

Through a member of his family Momeni was connected to Miami-based defense attorneys Zanganeh and Bradford Cohen, known for representing high-profile clients.

Zanganeh wouldn't speak to his new defense strategy but suggested difficulties obtaining complete case files from Momeni's former legal team led by Paula Canny, who filed a motion to withdraw as his attorney citing an unclear conflict of interest.

Last month, she maintained her former client's not guilty plea.

"My defense is an accident with a cross between self defense and accident there was no premeditation deliberation, absolutely not," she told reporters in May.

Neither of Momeni's top two new lawyers are licensed to practice in California, a procedural matter that is further postponing a preliminary hearing as the team builds their defense from scratch.

"There's a lot of evidence in this case we're in the infancy portion of doing our due diligence," Zanganeh said.

A six hour flight remains in between the defendant and his attorney and legal experts say that could work against them.

"These lawyers are unfamiliar with a potential SF jury pool," defense attorney Ivan Golde told CBS News Bay Area. "The travel from Florida is excessive and will take time. Also, simply they are unfamiliar with the courts and how things are done in San Francisco. Being familiar with the courts is a powerful advantage."

Golde suggested the new team should delay the preliminary hearing to prepare but the ultimate decision is up to Momeni who has already pushed for a speedy trial.

But Zanganeh has tapped several local attorneys to assist the team in navigating the San Francisco legal circuit.

They include Los Angeles-based attorney Zoe Aron, Douglas Horngrad, and former San Francisco homicide prosecutor Tony Brass, who says he brings in a host of resources having worked on both sides of the legal system for decades.

"I know this court house about as well as I could and so I think that's a real contribution to this team," he told CBS News Bay Area. "I think Mr. Momeni is comforted by that and I think he's right to be comforted by that."

Cameras were not allowed in court Tuesday where Momeni appeared in an orange jumpsuit and shackles.

Immediate family members, including his mother, were present showing support for Momeni as speculation surrounds the relationship between his sister Khazar and Bob Lee.

Confidence with his new team is key, and Zanganeh says the family is feeling better about the new defense team already.

"Candidly, it was never really on the horizon but then it came up and how could you turn that down?" Zanganeh told reporters. "I just think that I'm charming and polite and have a good track record."

Last month, Momeni pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Lee, who was fatally stabbed on a dark San Francisco street early on the morning of April 4th. 

Prosecutors allege the stabbing could have been sparked by a romantic relationship between Lee and Momeni's sister. The knife used to stab Lee matches the brand of cutlery found in her apartment.

Zanganeh has represented clients throughout the U.S. as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to his social media platforms. He also says he is '100% Persian,' something legal experts say is appealing to Momeni and his family. 

Photos and videos on Zanganeh's Instagram account highlight famous clients; his social media accounts also offer legal advice on matters that may aid a person in a criminal matter. 

If convicted, Momeni is facing 26 years to life in prison.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.