Published: Thu, March 15, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Trial begins for widow of nightclub shooter

Trial begins for widow of nightclub shooter

In her statement to law enforcement, she said Mateen was looking at the website for the club and told her, "This is my target".

Salman is being tried on charges of obstruction of justice and providing material support to a terrorist organization, and could face up to life in prison if convicted on both counts.

Salman was arrested past year in California, where she was staying with family, and has been jailed since. In the courtroom, she sat between her two defense attorneys with a blanket in her lap, occasionally taking notes and sipping water. At the time of the attack, it was the worst mass shooting in modern USA history. Salman is the only one charged in the crime.

The federal government turned quickly to terrorism as the motivation for the attack, noting Mateen's calls to police expressing allegiance to the Islamic State and a post on Facebook identifying ISIS leaders by name to show an extremism the killer would not have kept secret from his spouse, especially since he'd been interviewed by the FBI for terrorist sympathies before and during the course of Mateen and Salman's marriage.

Opening statements are expected to take two hours. The defense is expected to present evidence that Mateen visited Disney Springs and another nightclub alone in the hours before the attack - proof, they argue, that he was still choosing his target, without Salman, nearly until he opened fire.

The family's remarks came after Salman's defense lawyer, Linda Moreno, during opening statements in the trial portrayed Salman as a "trusting, simple" person with a low IQ, who had no idea that "she would wake up a widow, and Omar Mateen a martyr for a cause that she didn't support".

Either she knew her husband planned to shoot and kill dozens of people at Pulse nightclub, or she didn't.

Salman was questioned by federal authorities, and her story changed multiple times, prosecutors said.

He told jurors that Salman joined Mateen on trips to scout potential locations and to buy ammunition. According to court records, Mateen abused Salman, including when she was pregnant. In an 11-day period, the couple spent around $30,000, he said. In the end, she initialed and signed a 12-page statement that outlined her knowledge of Mateen's planning and said she knew he was going to attack the club when he left their home.

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The case will hinge on whether Noor Salman knew that her late husband, Omar Mateen, was planning the June 2016 attack at the Pulse nightclub.

In his hour-long opening statement, Mandolfo gave several examples of Salman's conflicting statements to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in the hours after the attack.

She could not predict what Mateen meant to do, her attorneys claim, and they have tried to convince a judge that the statements she made to investigators immediately after the shooting were obtained unlawfully. It's unclear whether she will take the stand during the trial.

Moreno urged jurors to see her client for who she really is - a frightened, battered wife.

Salman, who has a 5-year-old son, has been incarcerated since her arrest in January 2017. "She does not have the onus to prove her innocence", Clary said. "He doesn't understand why his mother is in jail for something his father did", Clary told HuffPost on Tuesday, standing across the street from the facility where Salman is now being held.

Salman's defense attorneys have said in court papers that they intend to call an expert in false confessions to testify about the unreliability of her confessions to police, and a domestic violence expert who will testify that Salman was so badly beaten that she was afraid to challenge her husband.

But her lawyers say the text was an innocent message reflecting the fact that Mateen often went out in the evening, telling his wife was going to visit a friend.

"We know she's no part of this", she said.

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