Suspect in fatal stabbing of Cash App founder pleads not guilty

May 18, 2023, 11:19 AM | Updated: 11:46 am

Defense attorney Paula Canny, representing Nima Momeni, speaks with reporters at the Hall of Justic...

Defense attorney Paula Canny, representing Nima Momeni, speaks with reporters at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco, Thursday, May 18, 2023. Momeni has been charged with murder in the death of Bob Lee. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

(AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tech consultant Nima Momeni pleaded not guilty Thursday to a murder charge in the stabbing death of Cash App founder Bob Lee on the streets of San Francisco.

Judge Victor Hwang ordered Momeni kept him in jail without bail, saying there was a high probability his release could result in great bodily harm to others. Momeni, who appeared in an orange jumpsuit, did not speak and his attorney Paula Canny entered the plea on his behalf.

Lee’s death on April 4 shocked San Francisco’s tech community. He created Cash App, a mobile payment service, and was the chief product officer of the cryptocurrency MobileCoin.

He was found outside a condominium building with three stab wounds, including one in the heart, shortly after 2:30 a.m. and was taken to a hospital where he later died.

Prosecutors say Momeni, 38, drove Lee to a secluded spot and stabbed him over an apparent dispute related to Momeni’s sister, Khazar Elyassnia. She appeared in court Thursday alongside Momeni’s mother. Prosecutors said that Momeni’s DNA was found on the blade handle of the knife and Lee’s blood was on the blade.

Canny acknowledged the two men argued in the car before the incident. She said Momeni’s actions were both a measure of self-defense and an accident.

“People can have a fight and not know that somebody’s been mortally wounded,” she told reporters outside court.

Momeni was arrested last month and charged with murder based on surveillance video and testimony from a friend who was with Lee the day before he died. Details were outlined in a motion to detain Momeni.

The two men had been hanging out with Elyassnia, Momeni’s sister, the day before the stabbing, according to the motion. The friend, who was not identified by prosecutors, said Momeni later questioned Lee about whether his sister had been engaging in inappropriate behavior and Lee said she had not.

The friend and Lee later parted ways, and surveillance video showed Lee entering the Millennium Tower, where Elyassnia lives, just after midnight. Video footage then showed Lee and Momeni leaving the building together shortly after 2 a.m. and driving off in Momeni’s car.

Prosecutors say that Momeni drove to a dark and secluded spot, in an area of condos and empty tech offices, and attacked Lee with a kitchen knife. He then sped away “and left victim to slowly die,” according to the motion.

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Suspect in fatal stabbing of Cash App founder pleads not guilty