• OPD chief's statements make fair trial for Pulse gunman's widow impossible in Orlando, filing claims

    By: Mark Boxley

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Noor Salman, who is charged with helping her husband plan and carry out the June 12, 2016, attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, filed a motion Friday to move her trial out of Orlando.

    In the motion asking for change of venue, Salman’s attorneys argued that statements made by Orlando Police Chief John Mina have created a bias that “(has) infected this community sufficiently to prejudice a significant portion against Ms. Salman.”

    “Ample evidence establishes the existence of negative pre-trial publicity in this case,” the filing said. “Specifically, Chief Mina made repeated disparaging statements and proclamations of Ms. Salman’s guilt, which received intense and widespread prejudicial publicity in the local press.

    “Chief Mina’s statements concerning Ms. Salman create the very real danger of community saturation, to the point where it is impossible to seat an impartial jury in Orlando.”

    Mina responded to the motion by issuing the following statement Saturday: 

    "I am aware of the motion filed for a change of venue in the case against Noor Salman. I respect the constitutional rights granted by law and recognize that a fair trial is paramount to the American justice system. I am confident should the motion be granted or denied, due process will be afforded."

    Salman is accused of obstructing justice and aiding her husband, Omar Mateen, in planning and carrying out the attack at Pulse during the early hours of June 12, 2016.

    The attack resulted in the deaths of 49 people and injuries to dozens of others.


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    Information given to the press was also prejudicial, Salman's filing claimed.

    A text message exchange between Salman and Mateen the night of the attack was truncated and presented out of context, the filing said.

    "For example, the press reported that officials revealed that Salman texted Mateen, 'Where are you? Are you OK?' Mateen texted back in reply, 'Did you hear what happened?' Salman texted the response, 'No, what happened?' Mateen sent a final text stating, 'Love you babe,'" the filing said. 

    In reality, the text message exchange was much longer, Salman's attorneys claimed.

    According to the lawsuit, the full exchange was:

    4:27:11 – Salman – “Where are you?” 

    4:27:33 – Mateen – “Everything ok?”

    4:27:58 – Salman – “Your mom I’d [sic] worried and so am i”

    4:28:25 – Salman – “You know you work tomorrow right?”

    4:28:28 – Mateen – “You heard what happened”

    4:28:34 – Salman – “????”

    4:28:52 – Salman – “What happened?!”

    4:29:22 – Mateen – “I love you babe”

    4:29:43 – Salman – “Habibi what happened?!”

    4:31:06 – Salman – “Your mom said that she said to come over and you never did.” 

    Among other comments and social media posts, the filing points specifically to a statement Mina made to the Orlando Political Observer on May 30.

    “Well, I will say that based on the information that I have, that I have received from the FBI, that she certainly could have, could knew [sic] about it and could have done something to prevent that, so I, (it's) my belief that she needs to be held accountable for those 49 deaths and for all those people that were injured and for this huge tragedy that we had here in Orlando,” Mina said, according to the filing.

    "Here, the chief law enforcement officer of Orlando gaveled the guilt of Ms. Salman to the Orlando community by communicating his clear and unambiguous belief in her guilt for aiding and abetting Omar Mateen and engaging in obstruction of justice," the filing said.

    For these reasons, and others, Salman's attorneys argued that she would not be able to have a fair trial in Orlando and requested it be moved to a different municipality.

    The prosecution did not immediately file a response to the request for a change of venue.

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