Noor Salman, widow of the gunman who killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, was found not guilty of obstruction and aiding and abetting by attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
If convicted, Salman had faced up to life in prison. The charges she was acquitted of included lying to the FBI and aiding her husband in the attack. The decision came on the third day of deliberations, after the jury convened for a total of 12 hours.
Salman’s hands shook as she entered the courtroom. She appeared extremely emotional when the verdict was announced. Tears streamed down her face as she looked at her family and smiled.
Salman’s family thanked the jurors, the judge and the pro bono criminal-defense team.
“We are so grateful to them and their verdict today,” a family spokesperson told reporters. “Noor can go home now to her son and pick up pieces from two years in jail.”
Chief John Mina of the Orlando Police Department, released a statement, saying, “I believe in our criminal justice system and am grateful for the jury’s hard work and thoughtful deliberations. Nothing can erase the pain we all feel about the senseless and brutal murders of 49 of our neighbors, friends, family members and loved ones.”
“Our community is strong, and the men and women of the Orlando Police Department stand ready to put themselves in harm’s way to protect our residents and visitors,” Mina concluded.
Sheriff Jerry L. Demings of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement he was “disappointed” with the verdict. “I am disappointed in the outcome of the trial and know that the victims and/or their families are more disappointed. This has been an emotional event for our community and many may feel that justice has not prevailed; however, the system of justice has spoken and we should look to the continued healing for the families and our entire community so that this event will not define us,” he wrote.
Prosecutors had argued Salman and her husband, Omar Mateen, scouted out potential targets to attack 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-inspired attack. In the end, Mateen chose Pulse, a gay nightclub, for the deadly shooting on June 12, 2016.
Defense attorneys described Salman, 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.
Attorney Charles Swift said there was no way Salman knew Mateen would attack the Pulse nightclub because even he didn’t know he would attack the nightclub until after he went to the Disney Springs complex.
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. They said Mateen, 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 Pulse as his target.
Mateen, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, was killed by police in the hours after the shooting.
Earlier this week, defense attorneys asked the judge for a mistrial after they found out 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.