Omar Mateen will never stand trial for the murder of 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub in 2016, but federal prosecutors plan to bring his wife to justice for her alleged role in one of America’s most notorious mass shootings. Jury selection begins today in the trial of Noor Salman, who faces charges of providing material support to a terrorist and obstruction of justice through destruction of records.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman William Daniels says the trial could last four full weeks, during which time prosecutors intend to prove Salman knew her husband planned an attack on the Orlando gay bar and that she lied about it to law enforcement. Phone records show Mateen called his wife from inside the club, and he reportedly asked her if she had seen the attack on the news. Mateen died in a shootout with police after an hours-long standoff the early morning of June 12, 2016. In phone calls with police, Mateen swore an allegiance to the Islamic State.
During the week before the shooting, Mateen gave his wife several large pieces of jewelry, including a diamond ring and matching band, a gold charm, and a set of earrings. Prosecutors are asking a jury to allow the seizure of the jewelry should they find Salman guilty. Searches of Mateen’s personal computer also indicate that he had visited the website for Pulse, and witnesses say he visited the club on numerous occasions.
The day before the shooting, Salman texted back and forth with Mateen, at one point saying that should his mom ask where he was that night, she would say a friend named “nimo” invited him over. Prosecutors say that Mateen’s friend, referred to only as “Nemo” in court documents, said he frequently served as an alibi while Mateen cheated on his wife. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will likely use this information in different ways in the trial. Prosecutors argue it’s evidence that Salman actively helped create a cover story for Mateen’s absence if his family inquired. Meanwhile, defense attorney Charles Swift has argued Mateen that used the same alibi with Salman that he had used before to cover up his infidelity, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Records also show that Salman’s own story to Fort Pierce, Fla., police after they showed up at her home changed multiple times. FBI agents say Salman initially said she had no knowledge of Mateen’s whereabouts but later said he had left with a gun and she knew he was going to “do something bad” but was in denial. “My fears had come true and he did what he said he was going to do. I was in denial and I could not believe that the father of my child was going to hurt other people,” reads a statement from Salman released in December.
Medical expert testimony unsealed Wednesday reveals a defense tactic for Swift’s team. Clinical psychologist Bruce Frumkin writes that based on a meeting with Salman in prison, she suffers from a “significant mental disorder” and shows signs of post-traumatic stress caused by Mateen’s abuse. He says her IQ measured around 84 and that she was likely to falsely confess to a crime. And Jacquelyn Campbell, a Baltimore expert with a Ph.D. in nursing, writes, “Noor Salman is a severely abused woman who was in realistic fear for her life from her abusive husband.”
In a survey about domestic abuse, Salman herself affirmatively checked a number of elements of abuse, including alleging that Mateen had choked and raped her, threatened to kill her, and beat her while she was pregnant with their son.