Trial begins for widow of Pulse gunman

The federal terrorism trial of Noor Salman, the widow of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, got underway Wednesday, with prosecutors alleging that Salman knew what her husband was planning. CNN's Nick Valencia reports.

Posted: Mar 28, 2018 5:08 AM
Updated: Mar 28, 2018 5:23 AM

A judge has denied a motion for dismissal by lawyers for the widow of the Pulse gunman after they said new details from prosecutors reveal the shooter's father was an FBI informant who is currently under a criminal investigation.

The judge said the fact that Omar Mateen's father worked as an FBI informant was not relevant to the case against Noor Salman.

According to a motion filed by the defense, Assistant US Attorney Sara Sweeney sent an email to the defense on Saturday -- in the middle of Salman's trial -- that stated Seddique Mateen was a confidential FBI source at various points in time between January 2005 through June 2016.

The email also stated that Seddique Mateen is being investigated for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan after documents were found in his home on June 12, 2016, the day of the Pulse attack. The dates of the money transfers were between March 16, 2016, and June 5, 2016, according to the email.

The revelation threatened to upend the case against Salman, the wife of Omar Mateen who is on trial for charges related to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016. Salman's defense attorneys said the failure to disclose this information earlier violated her due process rights, and they argued they would have taken a different legal strategy if they had known about this earlier.

Salman faces charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice, as prosecutors say she knew about the coming massacre. She has pleaded not guilty, and her defense team has cast her as a victim rather than an accomplice.

The defense began its case Monday.

Defense attorneys criticize failure to disclose

Prosecutors informed Salman's counsel about Seddique Mateen's FBI status on Saturday, more than a week after the trial began and after the prosecution rested its case.

"I have just received authorization to disclose the following information about Seddique Mateen," the email said, according to the defense motion. "If you should call S. Mateen to the stand, the government will not seek to elicit any of this information from him."

In addition, an anonymous tip on November 1, 2012, indicated Seddique Mateen was seeking to raise $50,000 to $100,000 via a donation drive to contribute toward an attack against the government of Pakistan, according to the email included in the defense motion.

Defense attorneys argued the late revelation is unconstitutional, citing the 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland. The Brady case ruled that prosecutors must turn over evidence that could be favorable to the accused over to the defense.

"It is apparent from the government's belated disclosure that Ms. Salman has been defending a case without a complete set of facts and evidence that the government was required to disclose," her attorneys wrote.

The attorneys further wrote that if they had known about Seddique Mateen's FBI status, they may have argued one of two theories with "strong support."

"1) Omar Mateen and his father, rather than Ms. Salman, conspired to support ISIS; or 2) the FBI's focus on Ms. Salman was based on its own motive to avoid responsibility for its failures with its own informant, Seddique Mateen, as well as his son," Salman's attorneys wrote.

Seddique Mateen was on the prosecution's witness list, but was not called to testify in the trial.

Father spoke to CNN in 2016

Seddique Mateen spoke to CNN's Don Lemon in the days after the killing and said he was shocked to learn his son gunned down 49 people at Pulse nightclub.

"I'm as shocked as you are because I didn't notice, as I said always in the past two days, I didn't notice anything, irregular behavior on his part or emotional behavior on his part," Seddique Mateen said. "He didn't get my attention just being not normal. If I did notice that, I would have (taken) care of him myself, I would have called law enforcement."

Seddique Mateen is originally from Afghanistan, according to US officials. He told CNN his son had been attentive to his work, his family and made regular visits to the family prior to the shooting.

"His act was a terror act, but as far him being a terrorist. I'm not aware of," Seddique Mateen said. "This is the worst thing that can happen for a father to see a son act like this."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the destination of money transfers for which Seddique Mateen is under investigation. The transfers were made to Turkey and Afghanistan.

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