A Florida jury last week acquitted the woman accused of helping her former husband execute a terrorist attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando two years ago.
Noor Salman, 31, walked away free Friday after federal prosecutors dissected her role in preventing the June 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub that left 49 dead and 53 wounded. The gunman, Omar Mateen, died after a five-hour police standoff — leaving many questions about how much, if anything, his wife knew about his motives.
“Omar Mateen is a monster. Noor Salman is a mother, not a monster,” defense attorney Lisa Moreno told jurors, according to CNN. “Her only sin is she married a monster.”
Salman spent the last two years behind bars on aiding and abetting charges after prosecutors claimed she knew of husband’s violent plans and even witnessed him buying a rifle, target shooting and viewing ISIS beheading video — and then lied to investigators about it.
“I wish I had done the right thing, but my fear held me back,” she wrote in a statement to the FBI and presented at trial last month. “I wish I had been more truthful.”
Defense attorneys framed Salman as a victim of her husband’s infidelity and abuse — naive, harmless and incapable of “connecting the dots.”
“She doesn’t go to the mosque, she searches for Hello Kitty on her website,” defense attorney Charles Swift said. “We’re supposed to believe she had long conversations with Omar Mateen about jihads?”
Swift went on to praise the jury as “remarkable” in his closing remarks. “They were pillars of this community. We knew their backgrounds,” he said. “They were true judges in this case.”
In a statement to the Orlando Sentinel, the jury foreman, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the not guilty verdict doesn’t mean the panel believed Salman “was unaware” of her husband’s radicalization and his violent capabilities.
“On the contrary we were convinced she did know. She may not have known what day, or what location, but she knew,” he said. “However, we were not tasked with deciding if she was aware of a potential attack. The charges were aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice.”
The verdict — which spared Salman from serving a life sentence — left survivors disappointed.
Barbara Poma, founder of the onePulse Foundation, encouraged others Friday to “trust” the jury made its decision “free of bias and emotion.” She vowed the verdict “will not divide us.”
“Those of us directly affected by this tragedy must find peace in our hearts and remember that he was the one that pulled the trigger that night,” she said. “He was the perpetrator. He should not have one more minute of power over our lives.”