ORLANDO, Fla. - The widow of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen allegedly told FBI agents that she knew her husband was “preparing for jihad” ahead of the attack, according to a motion filed in Orlando federal court Thursday.
The document was filed by federal prosecutors in response to a motion by Noor Salman’s attorneys to include, and exclude, certain pieces of evidence in her trial.
Salman is accused of helping her husband plan and carry out the June 12, 2016 attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead and dozens injured.
According to investigators, Mateen called 911 during the attack and claimed he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State.
After the attack, Salman was interviewed by FBI agents and allegedly told them that she knew her husband was preparing an attack when he began “spending a lot of money,” Thursday’s motion said.
Financial records show that Salman and Mateen made more than $25,000 in credit card purchases and withdrew more than $5,500 in cash in the weeks leading up to the attack.
Tax filings show that Salman and Mateen only brought in about $30,000 annually, the motion said.
Salman is seeking to exclude records documenting the pre-attack spending.
Salman’s attorneys argue that she does not have the mental capacity to have helped plan the Pulse attack and any confession she gave the FBI came after being interviewed for more than a dozen hours.
“That apparently is the government’s theory, that a special ed student who they could get to confess after 18 hours was actually a brilliant mastermind,” her attorney, Charles Swift, argued during a February hearing.
WFTV legal analys Bill Sheaffer said prosecutors still have a way to go to prove their case.
"It's not going to be enough for the government to show that she had some knowledge," he said. "They're going to have to show that she helped him."
The government also made the following arguments, among several others, about additional potential evidence in Thursday’s motion:
- Prosecutors want to bar testimony from a man named Nemo, who Salman claims was regularly used by her husband as a cover story for several affairs he had over the years. The government says Nemo's testimony would be “double-hearsay” and is irrelevant to the case. Salman’s attorneys say Nemo’s testimony would show Mateen’s long history of successfully lying to his wife and prove that it was reasonable she would have believed his story the night of the attack.
- The government is seeking to bar a report by Dr. John Chamberlain, who conducted a mental evaluation of Salman while she was jailed in California. “The introduction of medical records, particularly ones that contain opinions or diagnoses, without calling the physician as a witness to explain his conclusions and to be subject to cross examination, carries an unjustified risk of confusing the jury,” Thursday’s motion says.
- Prosecutors want video evidence from the scene of the Pulse attack to be allowed in Salman’s trial. Her attorneys argue that the graphic nature of the video would cause the jury to be unfairly biased. The government argues that the video is necessary to “establish Mateen’s actions in providing material support to the Islamic State … any case that involves the murder of 49 victims on behalf of the Islamic State and necessitates that the government prove that the offense resulted in death, will necessarily involve proving graphic violence and physical injury,” Thursday’s motion said.
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