Orlando nightclub shooter's widow found not guilty of aiding husband

 Lawyers said Noor Salman was abused and mistreated by her husband 

Orlando Police release new body-camera footage of Pulse nightclub attack

The widow of the Orlando nightclub shooter who killed 49 people, has been found not guilty of charges that could have seen her jailed for life.

Prosecutors alleged Noor Salman had assisted her husband, Omar Mateen, in scouting potential targets for him, including Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex. They also alleged she knew he was buying ammunition for his AR-15 rifle ahead of his deadly attack.

But after three days of deliberation, the jury found her not guilty of federal charges of obstructing investigators and aiding Mateen in providing support to Isis. He had sworn allegiance to an Isis leader before he was shot and killed by police who had stormed the nightclub where he was holding hostages.

Ms Salman, 31, could have faced up to life in prison had she been convicted. Local media said she began crying once the jury returned its verdict and she learnt she had been found not guilty. At around 1pm, she was released from custody, declining to speak to the waiting media.

Ms Salman’s lawyers had argued she was an easily manipulated woman with a low IQ. They said the woman, who was born to Palestinian parents in California, had been regularly abused by her husband, who also cheated on her with other women.

It was claimed Mateen had concealed much of his life from his wife, and defence lawyer Charles Swift told the court there was no way Ms Salman could have known the shooter was going to target the Pulse nightclub in June 2016 – an attack that at the time was the deadliest assault in modern US history.

“It’s a horrible, random, senseless killing by a monster,” Mr Swift said during his arguments to the jury. “But it wasn’t preplanned. The importance to this case is that if he didn’t know, she couldn’t know.”

Ms Salman’s statement to the FBI in the hours after the attack appeared to play a key role in the case. In the statement, Ms Salman said over “the last two years, Omar talked to me about jihad”.

Ms Salman, who did not speak in her own defence, told the FBI in that statement, that her husband did not use the internet in their home, even though prosecutors said he did. She told investigators that Mateen had deactivated his Facebook account in 2013, but they found that he had an account up until the month of the shooting, and that he was friends with his wife. She said her husband only had one gun when he had three, and that he was not radicalised.

Woman mourns after 2016 attack that killed 49 people and injured 58

Defence lawyers said the FBI coerced Ms Salman’s statement and she signed it because she was tired after extensive questioning and feared losing her young son. They fought to have it thrown out.

Jurors asked to review the statement more closely a couple of hours into their deliberations and the judge agreed to their request.

Sara Sweeney, an assistant US attorney, showed surveillance video of the Disney Springs complex that captured Mateen walking near the House of Blues club in the hours before the Pulse attack. In it, he looked behind him at police officers standing nearby before deciding to leave.

“He had to choose a new target,” she said.

Pulse owner Barbara Poma, who had been in court with the mothers of several victims, left the hearing without commenting.

But Ms Salman’s three-strong pro bono legal team, Charles Swift, Linda Moreno and Fritz Scheller, thanked the jury and said it had prevented their client from becoming the last of the Pulse victims.

“The jury is the hero,” Mr Swift told reporters. “And I want you to think about this – she has to explain this to her son.”

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