Lawyers want to exclude statement by Orlando shooter’s widow
Lawyers for the widow of the man who killed dozens of people at a Florida nightclub say her statement to the FBI after the attack shouldn’t be shown to jurors during her upcoming trial.
Testimony continued Friday in a two-day hearing in an Orlando federal courtroom to determine which evidence can be presented at the trial scheduled to begin March 1. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Judge Paul Byron said he would announce his decision in a written order but didn’t say when he expects to release that order.
Noor Salman, 31, faces charges of aiding a terrorist organization and obstruction of justice. Her husband, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and wounded at least 68 others during the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016.
On Friday, Salman’s attorney, Charles Swift, argued that Salman was in custody from the moment Fort Pierce officers asked her to leave her apartment, sit in an unmarked police car and wait for FBI agents to arrive. Swift argued that everything she told the FBI immediately after the attack should be excluded from trial because she was in custody and not given proper Miranda warnings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney argued that Salman was free to leave at any time and gave her statements freely to investigators.
“She was never in custody,” Sweeney said. “A reasonable, innocent person would not feel that they were in custody.”
In court Thursday, FBI agent Ricardo Enriquez, a polygraph examiner assigned to the Miami office, said he drove to Fort Pierce where Salmon lived with Mateen on the day of the attack to interview her. Enriquez spoke with Salman about her husband and then wrote down her statement. The interviews of Salman that day were not audio or video recorded.
After writing the statement, Enriquez said he asked Salman to write a paragraph saying that she wasn’t forced to talk. When she finished writing, she went the bathroom, according to his testimony. While she was gone, he read over her statement with two other agents.
Enriquez said he was surprised by the last sentence.
“I am sorry for what happened. I wish I could go back and tell his family and the police what he was going to do,” she wrote.
“I realized, when I read that, that she knew,” Enriquez testified.
Enriquez said he told Salman that he was disappointed in her for not telling the truth and that lying to the FBI is a crime.
He then took down more statements from Salman. In the second, he testified, Salman said she suspected Mateen was planning to attack a club but she didn’t know the specifics. In the third statement, she said she knew he was going to attack Pulse nightclub and that they had visited Downtown Disney – which is now known as Disney Springs – and after eating dinner they drove around for about 20 minutes.
Swift countered that claim.
“It would shock you if it wasn’t true,” Swift asked the FBI agent. “It would shock you if the GPS said they never went near the Pulse nightclub?”
Enriquez answered, “I just wrote down what she told me.”
Enriquez testified that Salman said she saw her husband looking at the club’s photo on a website. She told the agent that Mateen told her that was his target and she realized the attack would happen soon.
Byron also heard testimony Thursday from another FBI agent, an Orlando Police Department hostage negotiator and a Fort Pierce police officer.
Swift had said earlier that Salmon might testify but said Friday that she would not.