(Bloomberg) -- The lawyer representing tech entrepreneur Bob Lee’s accused killer has quit, following a disagreement with her client over how quickly he should press forward with his defense against murder charges.
A state judge in San Francisco criminal court granted Paula Canny’s request Tuesday to withdraw from representing Nima Momeni in the high-profile case.
Lee was the chief product officer at cryptocurrency startup MobileCoin and previously created Cash App. Momeni, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, is accused of stabbing Lee to death on a dark downtown street early in the morning of April 4.
Canny’s departure, while not uncommon in criminal cases, follows simmering tension between her and Momeni. Last week, at a news conference following a court appearance in the case, the lawyer acknowledged that she was “frustrated” by Momeni’s unwillingness to take her advice.
She explained that she was reviewing video footage from the Millennium Tower, the San Francisco apartment building where Lee had been hanging out with Momeni and his sister. Momeni and Lee left the building together shortly before Lee was killed.
At the news conference, Canny said she wanted to delay Momeni’s preliminary hearing, which requires prosecutors to show they have enough evidence to move forward with a criminal trial.
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Canny said she was inclined to take more time to digest the evidence, including the video footage, to better challenge prosecutors. But Momeni wanted to push forward with the hearing set for Tuesday.
“There’s a strong argument that the voluminous amount of discovery that has recently been provided to me” would be “good cause to continue the case,” Canny said.
She had described her approach to Momeni’s defense as “a combination of an accident and self-defense — there was no premeditation, deliberation.”
“It’s super-complicated because from his perspective, or from any criminal defendant’s perspective, they’re in custody,” Canny said at the news conference. “Who wants to be in jail? Most people want their cases to proceed quickly — but most good lawyers want to look at everything.”
Canny said Momeni hired Saam Zangeneh, a criminal defense lawyer based in Miami. Zangeneh represented a man convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2019 for the slaying of a Florida State University law professor in a murder-for-hire scheme five years earlier, according to the Associated Press.
Zangeneh told Bloomberg News Tuesday he was recruited for Momeni’s case last week and has spoken to the defendant, but is still reviewing evidence and doesn’t know enough yet to comment on the merits of the case. He said he’s hoping to add Tony Brass, a San Francisco-based lawyer, to the defense team.
Canny is well known among criminal defense lawyers in San Francisco, who agreed it is generally a good strategy to delay preliminary hearings in order to collect and process all possible evidence.
Adam Gasner, a criminal defense lawyer in the city, said Momeni should defer to Canny’s “vast and longtime experience in serious and violent cases in the Bay-Area.” Echoing the opinion of others in the field, he said Momeni’s “desire to proceed quickly may not be in his best interest.”
(Updates with comment by Momeni’s new attorney.)
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