Prosecutors open trial of Pulse gunman’s widow, saying, ‘Only two knew’
The 31-year-old is charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice for allegedly misleading law enforcement agents investigating the June 12, 2016 massacre. She has pleaded not guilty.
Assistant US Attorney Jeff Mandolfo began his opening statement with the story of Jeff Rodriguez, who survived being shot multiple times while hiding in one of the nightclub’s bathrooms. Rodriguez and the other victims had no clue about the horror that would unfold at the club that night, Mandolfo said.
“Only two knew: Omar Mateen and the defendant,” the prosecutor said.
Salman even told the FBI later that she regretted not doing more to stop her husband’s rampage, according to Mandolfo, who told jurors that Salman said to a federal agent, “I’m sorry for what happened. I wish I would’ve told.”
Salman’s trial begins 21 months after her husband committed what was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Police killed her husband at the club that night, so Salman will be the first and likely only person tried in the killings.
If convicted on the terror charge, she could face life in prison.
Beginning at 9 a.m., prosecutors and Salman’s defense began delivering their opening statements in front of 12 jurors and 8 alternates. They’ve told the judge they need about an hour each.
The final panel of jurors — comprised of 12 women and 6 men — was chosen Monday, out of a pool of more than 600 people who had been questioned since March 1.
Prosecutors will argue during the trial that Salman could have tipped off authorities to prevent the mass shooting at the nightclub.
An indictment alleges that, between the end of April 2016 and June 12, “Salman aided and abetted Mateen’s attempted provision and provision of material support, namely, personnel and services, to (ISIS), and the death of multiple victims resulted.”
But Salman’s attorneys will say their client had no knowledge about Mateen’s plans and that she was a wife enduring her husband’s abuse.
“In my expert opinion, Noor Salman is a severely abused woman who was in realistic fear for her life,” wrote Jacquelyn Campbell, a nurse who evaluated Salman as an expert in domestic violence, in a court document.
One of her attorneys has said that Salman suffers post-traumatic stress disorder because of years of physical and mental abuse,
She could not predict what Mateen intended 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. Prosecutors have argued that Salman gave her statements voluntarily, according to CNN affiliates.
A judge recently ruled Salman’s statements to the FBI are admissible.
The judge also recently decided Mateen’s calls to authorities during the massacre will be allowed. While on the phone with a police negotiator during the night, Mateen said he was a soldier of ISIS.
The courtroom will be open to survivors, victims’ families and members of the public, but no cameras will be allowed.
Salman grew up in Rodeo, California, after her parents emigrated from the West Bank in 1985, according to
. She told the Times that she met Mateen on a dating site in 2011 and the couple married later that year.
The couple and their son, who was 3 at the time of the massacre, lived about two hours from Orlando in Fort Pierce, Florida. Salman was Mateen’s second wife.
The trial is being held in Orlando about 2 miles from the site of the shooting. The trial is expected to last about three weeks.