Lawyers for tech consultant Nima Momeni say he was not angry with slain Cash App founder Bob Lee

By JANIE HAR (Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Attorneys for Nima Momeni, the tech consultant charged in the death of Cash App founder Bob Lee, said Monday that the two men had a cordial relationship and the defendant had no reason to kill him.

The comments from Momeni’s lawyers came during a preliminary hearing, where the prosecution presents its evidence and a judge decides if there is enough to move ahead to trial. The hearing will continue Tuesday, when Momeni’s defense is expected to lay out more of their arguments.

Prosecutors have said that Momeni, 38, planned the April 4 attack that left Lee dying on a desolate San Francisco street. They said he drove Lee to a secluded spot and stabbed him three times after a dispute related to Momeni’s sister, Khazar.

But Tony Brass, one of four defense attorneys present Monday, said it was not Lee but another man whom Momeni suspected of acting inappropriately with his younger sister.

“What you see is cordial, a cordial relationship between Nima Momeni and Bob Lee,” Brass said to reporters after the hearing. “They’re in a car together. Those are not two men who have murderous rage between them.”

A friend of Lee told homicide investigators they had been hanging out and drinking with Momeni’s sister the day before the stabbing, prosecutors said previously in court documents. 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.

But Saam Zangeneh, one of Momeni’s lawyers, said he asked those questions of Lee in regards to the man whose apartment they had been drinking at.

Zangeneh said in court he needed to dispute the idea of an “honor killing” committed to protect a sister.

Prosecutors have not spelled out a motive, but previously offered a timeline in a case that has drawn outsize 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.

Momeni, who has been in jail since his arrest April 13, has pleaded not guilty. He faces 26 years to life if convicted. His arrest came more than a week after Lee, 43, was found bleeding in the early morning hours of April 4. He later died at a hospital.

On Monday, Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai formally introduced evidence for his case, including photos of a knife that prosecutors say Momeni used to stab Lee, a trail of blood left by Lee as he staggered for help, and video footage showing the two men leave Momeni’s sister’s condo building before the stabbing.

Talai said at a May hearing that the weapon was part of a unique kitchen set belonging to Momeni’s sister and that analysis showed Momeni’s DNA on the weapon’s handle and Lee’s DNA on the bloody blade. Police recovered a knife with a 4-inch (10-centimeter) blade at the scene.

Zangeneh questioned why the rubber handle of the knife was tested for only DNA and not fingerprints. SFPD crime scene investigator Rosalyn Check said that it is difficult to get prints off rubber.

“When you want to see if someone’s touching something, you do fingerprint analysis, right?” he said to reporters. “And they weren’t done on the handle, which is the most important, relevant portion of who, if any, was handling that item.”

Surveillance video of Lee’s final night shows him entering the posh Millennium Tower downtown, where Momeni’s sister lives with her husband, a prominent San Francisco plastic surgeon.

Video footage then shows 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 of San Francisco, which has tech offices and condominiums but little activity in the early morning hours.