Judge Rejects Bid to Toss Charges Against Pulse Shooter’s Widow

FILE- In this June 15, 2016 file photo Seddique Mir Mateen, father of Omar Mateen, the shooter of the Pulse nightclub massacre, talks to reporters in Fort Pierce, Fla. Lawyers for Noor Salman, the widow of the Pulse nightclub shooter, argued they’ve only just been told that the attacker’s father was an FBI informant for 11 years. A judge rejected their motion to dismiss the charges against Salman. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

(CN) – A federal judge on Monday denied defense attorneys’ motion to toss out charges that Noor Salman, the widow of the Pulse nightclub shooter, aided and abetted her husband in his plans to carry out a terrorist attack.

Salman is charged with obstruction of justice and aiding support for a foreign terrorist organization in connection with her husband Omar Mateen’s June 12, 2016, assault on the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, which left 49 dead.

In their motion to dismiss, Salman’s attorneys claimed they were unable to properly prepare a defense because prosecutors failed to disclose information about the shooter’s father, namely that he had been an “FBI confidential … source” for years and was investigated for alleged money transfers to Turkey made shortly before the shooting.

Salman’s attorneys argued this information was not released to them until two weeks into Salman’s criminal trial, and that the delayed disclosure prevented them from “pursuing alternative and viable theories of defense.”

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron rejected the motion to dismiss Monday afternoon, court records show. The prosecution rested last week, so, in light of the judge’s decision, the defense team has to move forward with its case in spite of its grievances that it was kept in the dark about the father.

Mateen was killed in a confrontation with police at the Pulse nightclub after declaring allegiance to the Islamic State during the massacre.

The FBI had investigated Mateen three years prior to the attack, upon receiving reports that, while working as a security guard at a St. Lucie courthouse, he boasted of supposed family ties to al-Qaida and professed that he hoped police would raid his home so he could die as a martyr. No legal action was taken against him at that time.

Prosecutors allege that in the summer of 2016, Salman drove with Mateen to various locations that he was scouting for potential attacks, including Disney World and the luxury retail center CityPlace in West Palm Beach, Fla.

According to the FBI, Salman told investigators she saw Mateen consuming extremist propaganda on the internet and heard him refer to the Pulse nightclub as his “target” when he pulled up the club’s website. She allegedly witnessed Mateen leaving their home with a gun and an ammunition-filled backpack on the night of the attack.

Salman is also accused of misleading investigators during the early stages of the post-shooting inquiry. Prosecutors claim that Salman, on the night of the shooting, told Mateen’s family a bogus story about his whereabouts, and later used the same story when speaking with investigators.

“The defendant deleted text messages related to this cover story from her cell phone. Then, immediately following the attack, the defendant initially used the same lie when speaking to law enforcement agents concerning Mateen’s whereabouts,” a trial brief states.

Salman’s attorneys have portrayed her as a victim of physical and verbal domestic abuse at the hands of Mateen.
The defense maintains that Salman “did not do anything with the intent to assist” Mateen with his terrorist plot.

They’ve argued that cellphone GPS data shows Salman did not scout out the Pulse nightclub with Mateen prior to the attack as the FBI alleged.

In their motion requesting dismissal – or alternatively, a mistrial – Salman’s lawyers claimed that over the weekend, they received an email from an assistant U.S. attorney belatedly disclosing that Mateen’s father Seddique Mateen “was a FBI confidential human source at various points in time between January 2005 and June 2016.”

According to the transcript, the email continued: “During a consent search conducted at Seddique Mateen’s residence on June 12, 2016, receipts for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan were found. The dates of the transfers were between March 16, 2016 and June 5, 2016. As a result of the discovery of these receipts, an FBI investigation into Seddique Mateen  was opened.”

Allegedly, the prosecution further disclosed that in Nov. 2012, the FBI received “an anonymous  tip [which] indicated that Seddique Mateen was seeking to raise $50,000 – $100,000 via a  donation drive to contribute towards an attack against the government of Pakistan.”

Seddique has not publicly responded to these claims since they made headlines Monday. In the aftermath of the shooting, he vehemently denied any extremist or terrorist views when media asked about comments he made on his Afghan political YouTube talk show segment “Durand Jirga.”

The father insisted in a June 2016 interview with Courthouse News that he had no advance knowledge of his son’s terrorist plot.

“I wish there was something I could’ve done differently, [so] that this would not have happened,” Seddique said in the interview two days after the shooting. “And those family that lost their loved ones . . . I could’ve protected them.”

“I always said that if I did notice something wrong, I would report [it] to law enforcement. I would’ve arrested him myself,” he said.

Seddique, who purportedly moved to the U.S. from Afghanistan in the 1980s, has not been charged with a crime in connection with the Orlando massacre. Before the attack, he was known by a small group of viewers of the “Durand Jirga” show, wherein he criticized Pakistan’s government and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, according to a report in the Washington Post.

As of last Saturday, Seddique had not been informed by the FBI that he was under investigation for his alleged funds transfers, according to the attorney correspondence in the court record.

In the motion to dismiss, Salman’s defense team argued that by delaying disclosure of information about Seddique, prosecutors prevented them from pursuing two defense theories: that Seddique, not Salman, participated in the Orlando attack preparation, and that the “FBI’s focus on Ms. Salman was based on its own motive to avoid responsibility for its failures with its own informant [Seddique] as well as his son.”

The judge rejected the argument Monday.

“This trial is not about Seddique Mateen. It’s about Noor Salman,” the judge said, according to an Orlando Sentinel report.

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