REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) — A Hillsborough heiress accused of plotting to kill her ex-boyfriend and father of her two children has been found not guilty in her murder trial Friday, while a mistrial was declared for her accused co-conspirator.
Prosecutors had argued 31-year-old Tiffany Li, heiress to a Chinese real estate fortune, conspired in 2016 with her new boyfriend, Kaveh Bayat, to kill Keith Green because of a custody battle over their children.
The jury in the case had been deliberating for 12 days following a 34-day trial. As the verdict was read, Li broke down in tears.
After her verdict, bailiffs removed her ankle monitor and she was hustled away from the San Mateo County Courthouse just minutes after the jury aquitted her.
“I can say now, what I could not say before for three and a half years. Our client is not just not guilty, but innocent,” said Geoff Carr, Li’s defense attorney.
Later Friday, jurors announced they were hopelessly deadlocked on a verdict for co-defendant Bayat – 6-6 on the murder charge and 7-5 on conspiracy – and Judge Robert Foiles declared a mistrial.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe says he and his team will give the case a rest for a few weeks and then decide whether to retry Mr. Bayat.
“Mr. Bayat and counsel are disappointed in the outcome. He’s not guilty of killing anybody,” said John May, Bayat’s attorney.
The case grabbed national headlines when Li was required to post an astonishing $35 million bail that allowed her to stay in her home. It was based on the prosecutors fears that she was a flight risk.
Wagstaffe said the case had no eyewitnesses or smoking gun, and the trial was an uphill battle from the start.
“With circumstantial evidence you have to say will all these pieces amount to enough. For Miss Li, it obviously was not enough and that was a miscalculation on our part,” Wagstaffe said.
Prosecutors claimed that Li, whose family in China made a fortune in real estate construction, lured Green to her chateau-style mansion in 2016 to discuss the children, where Bayat allegedly forced a gun into Green’s mouth, breaking a tooth, and pulled the trigger.
San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Bryan Abanto said Li and Bayat then hired Bayat’s friend Olivier Adella to dispose of Green’s body, which was eventually found decomposing off the side of a road in Sonoma County, and took steps to cover their crime by creating alibis for themselves.
But defense lawyers countered that Adella murdered Green in a botched kidnapping attempt, claiming prosecutors ignored evidence pointing to him.
“The prosecution is prosecuting a case, but they have the wrong people on trial,” John May, Bayat’s attorney, said at the start of the trial.
Li’s attorneys also said she had settled the custody issues with her former boyfriend and had nothing to do with his death.
The prosecution faced a setback earlier this month when Adella, its chief witness, was arrested on charges of contacting an ex-girlfriend and witness for the defense. Adella was expected to testify that Li and Bayat asked him to dispose of Green’s body, but prosecutors did not call him as a witness.
Adella earlier plead guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact. Prosecutors said they will take a closer look at whether Adella had a greater role in Green’s killing and whether he should also be tried for murder.
Len Ramirez contributed to this report.
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