Orlando, FL – A jury found the wife of the Pulse nightclub shooter not guilty on all charges on Friday morning.
Noor Salman was charged with obstruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization, and she had faced life in prison if convicted.
Salman was married to Omar Mateen when he attacked the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016, and prosecutors said she knew enough about the attack to have put a stop to it before it happened.
Mateen attacked the busy Pulse nightclub with his AR-15, leaving 49 people dead and another 58 wounded, in what was the nation’s worst mass shooting until the Las Vegas massacre on Oct. 1, 2017.
Jurors deliberated for three days at the end of Salman’s trial, and during deliberations, asked questions about the charges Salman faced as they closely examined the statement she made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the hours after the attack, WPTV reported.
On Wednesday, jurors asked to review a copy of the statement that Salman gave the FBI immediately after the attack, Florida Today reported.
Judge Paul Byron answered some of the jury’s questions about definitions and descriptions related to the charges Salman faced on Thursday.
During the trial, defense attorneys portrayed Salman as an easily manipulated woman with a low IQ, according to WPTV. They said that her husband had cheated on her with multiple women and concealed much of his life from Salman.
“She doesn’t go to the mosque, she searches for Hello Kitty on her website,” defense attorney Charles Swift said in his closing argument, according to CNN. “We’re supposed to believe she had long conversations with Omar Mateen about jihads?”
However, prosecutors said Salman wasn’t that innocent.
She helped her husband scout out potential targets for his attack, including Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex, and she knew he was buying ammo for his Sig Sauer MCX for an upcoming jihad effort, prosecutors said.
WPTV reported that prosecutors said Salman was well aware of her husband’s “sick fascination” with violent jihadi videos, and that she knew he spent time on Islamic State group websites.
Prosecutors said Salmon essentially gave Mateen a “green light to commit terrorism.”
“This case is about what she knew and what she did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney said. “The defendant didn’t pull the trigger that night, but she did serve as a green light for her husband.”
But her attorney argued there was no way Salman knew that Mateen would attack the Pulse nightclub because he hadn’t made his final decision about where to commit his jihad until just before he attacked the gay nightclub.
“It’s a horrible, random, senseless killing by a monster,” Swift said during closing arguments. “But it wasn’t preplanned. The importance to this case is that if he didn’t know, she couldn’t know.”
But prosecutors said that only hours after the attack, Salman told the FBI that over “the last two years, Omar talked to me about jihad,” WPTV reported.
Prosecutors said Salman changed her story multiple times before she signed a 12-page statement that outlined her knowledge of Mateen’s planning, Florida Today reported.
In the statement, Salman told the FBI she had accompanied Mateen when he scoped out Pulse and other potential targets. However, it was revealed during the trial that GPS and cell phone data showed neither Salman nor Mateen had been anywhere near Pulse prior to the attack.
At trial, Salman’s attorneys argued that prosecutors had withheld the fact that they’d disproven the initial statement given to them, and said the that the disproved statement was a key piece of evidence that had kept the shooter’s wife behind bars since her arrest in January of 2017, according to Florida Today.
Salman did not testify in her own defense, but prosecutors shared her signed statement with the jury repeatedly.
In the statement, she told the FBI that she had known in advance that her husband was going to do something violent.
“I wish I had done the right thing, but my fear held me back. I wish I had been more truthful,” she wrote in her statement to the FBI.
But her attorneys successfully painted a picture of an innocent woman who had married the wrong man, CNN reported.
“Omar Mateen is a monster. Noor Salman is a mother, not a monster. Her only sin is she married a monster,” defense attorney Linda Moreno told jurors.