The Pulse nightclub shooter’s widow has been acquitted of charges of helping her husband plan mass shooting that left 49 dead.
Noor Salman, 31, was found not guilty by a federal jury on Friday of helping her husband Omar Mateen in the attack that killed 49 people in 2016.
Jurors acquitted Salman on charges of obstruction and aiding and abetting the commission of a terrorist act. The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for more than 11 hours and were in their third day of deliberations when they reached their verdict Friday morning.
The Pulse nightclub shooter’s widow Noor Salman (pictured in a court sketch on Thursday) has been acquitted of charges of helping her husband plan mass shooting that left 49 dead
Defense attorneys for Noor Salman (left), the widow of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen (right), gave their closing arguments in Florida court on Wednesday
Prosecutors were keen to paint Salam, a mother-of-one, manipulative and materialistic – someone who was happy to take the money her husband spent on diamonds and designer clothes and keep quiet about his plans for mass murder.
They pointed to her FBI confession, obtained after more than 11 hours of questioning without a lawyer present, where she admitted to knowing Mateen planned to attack the Pulse nightclub ahead of the night of the attack.
Something that later turned out to be impossible as it emerged that Mateen chose the target at the last moment, after he found too much security at Disney Springs.
The defense have always argued that the statement to the FBI, which was not recorded and written by an agent, was tantamount to a false confession.
Her attorneys described Salman as a simple woman with a low IQ who was abused by her husband, and who didn’t know of his plans because he concealed much of his life from her.
‘Why would Omar Mateen confide in Noor, a woman he clearly had no respect for?’ Linda Moreno, a defense lawyer, asked the jury.
Attorney Charles Swift said there was no way Salman knew that Mateen would attack Pulse because he didn’t know he would attack the nightclub until that evening – after he went to the complex Disney Springs.
‘Omar Mateen is a monster. Noor Salman is a mother, not a monster. Her only sin is she married a monster,’ defense attorney Linda Moreno said at the trial.
And it appears the jury agreed, finding Salman not guilty.
During the trial, Salman’s attorneys fought hard to keep an FBI statement out of the trial.
They say it was coerced and she signed it because she was tired and feared losing her young son.
Forty-nine people were killed and nearly 60 injured in the June 12, 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida
Disney Springs is a shopping and entertainment complex attached to Disney World. The court heard Omar originally planned to attack there instead
WAS NOOR SALMAN THE SCAPEGOAT OF THE PULSE MASSACRE?
During the trial, prosecutors have painted Salman as manipulative and materialistic, someone who was happy to take the money her husband spent on diamonds and designer clothes and keep quiet about his plans for mass murder.
But many have argued that Salman, a housewife and mother-of-one who lived with Mateen in Florida, away from her family and friends, was just another one of his victims.
Her defense lawyers say she was terrified of her abusive husband who controlled her money, what she wore and where she went – even what she ate.
She believed his threats that he’d take away her son and believed he was more than capable of killing her.
Jacquelyn Campbell, a leading expert on domestic violence, evaluated Salman and told the Huffington Post she was in the ‘extreme danger range’ of being killed during her marriage to Mateen. Salman wrote in the assessment that Mateen strangled her, beat her while she was pregnant, and controlled her life.
She said it also explains some of her unusual responses during her 11 hour FBI interview when prosecutors described her as ‘staged and rehearsed.’ There were also strangely conflicting reports, with one agent saying she never cried, and another saying she sobbed for five minutes straight.
Campbell said many abuse victims try to show as little emotion as possible, even when under extreme stress, as not to antagonize their abuser.
After 11 hours, and no sleep, Salman confessed to knowing about her husband’s plans, reportedly telling agents in the unrecorded interview that she knew Mateen was headed to Pulse that night for the attack, that she’d seen him look at the club’s website, and they’d cased the club together.
Authorities later found that much of what she confessed to was impossible, as Salman’s original target that night had been Disney Springs. He’d been forced to change at the last minute after finding the security was too high.
None of their phones or computers showed any search for Pulse nightclub before Mateen’s last minute Google of gay clubs in the area after changing his plans from Disney.
Experts believe Salman, who had a very low IQ and submissive, suggestible personalty were at much higher risk of false confession – especially if they’ve been interviewed for long periods of time or deprived of sleep.
Meanwhile friends and family described Salman as a gentle, helpful soul who was never violent.
More than 80 domestic violence and civil rights groups have released a statement in support of Salman, calling the prosecution against her Islamaphobic.
‘She is being prosecuted under the guise of guilt by association as a Muslim woman married to a Muslim man who committed mass violence,’ they wrote.
Prosecutors said the statement showed she knew about Omar Mateen’s attack and did nothing to stop it.
‘The last two years, Omar talked to me about jihad,’ Salman said, according to the statement.
Prosecutors said Salman and Mateen scouted out potential targets together – including Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex – and she knew he was buying ammunition for his AR-15 in preparation for a jihadi attack.
In the hours after the shooting, she lied to the FBI about the number of guns her husband had and his internet use, which included watching beheadings and visiting Islamic State group websites.
Defense attorneys described Salman, who was born in California to Palestinian parents, as a simple woman with a low IQ. She was abused by her husband, who cheated on her with other women and concealed much of his life from her, they said.
Susan Clary, spokesperson for Noor Salman’s family, Ahmed Bedier, President, United Voices For America, 2nd from left, and the four members of Noor Salman’s family, address the media March 14
Attorney Charles Swift said there was no way Salman knew that Mateen would attack the Pulse nightclub because even he didn’t know he would attack the nightclub until after he went to his initial target, the Disney Springs complex.
Mateen was shot dead when police stormed the nightclub after the shooting
‘It’s a horrible, random, senseless killing by a monster,’ Swift said. ‘But it wasn’t preplanned. The importance to this case is that if he didn’t know, she couldn’t know.’
During the trial, prosecutors said Salman advised Mateen to lie to his mother when she inquired of his whereabouts on the night of the shooting.
Swift took the jury through the hours of Salman’s life before the attack. She called a friend and her uncle in California, saying that she was coming to visit and that Mateen would be joining them.
She talked with her in-laws, ate at Applebee’s and texted Mateen. He didn’t respond. She later went on Facebook, read a book and then texted Mateen again.
‘You know you work tomorrow,’ she wrote.
He responded: ‘You know what happened?’
She wrote, ‘What happened?’
Then he sent his last text: ‘I love you babe.’
Swift said: ‘One person knows what’s happened in this, and one person doesn’t.’
They said Mateen, who was born in New York to Afghani parents, intended to attack Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex by hiding a gun in a stroller but became spooked by police and instead chose the gay club as his target.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney said Salman ‘knowingly engaged in misleading conduct’ when she spoke to the FBI in the hours after the attack.
Mateen, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, was killed by police in the hours after the Pulse shooting.
Earlier this week, defense attorneys asked the judge for a mistrial after they found out that Mateen’s father had been an FBI informant for years. The judge rejected the request, saying the trial was about Salman, not Mateen’s father.
Salman did not testify in her defense.