Terrorism expert will testify at Noor Salman Trial

Hearing held Friday to discuss testimony

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Three days worth of hearings leading up to the federal trial against Pulse gunman widow Noor Salman concluded Friday morning with the judge ruling that a terrorism expert will be allowed to testify at trial. 

Salman is charged with aiding and abetting a terrorist and obstruction as prosecutors allege she knew about gunman Omar Mateen's plan to attack Pulse nightclub June 12, 2016. 

Friday morning, federal prosecutors argued why they want and need Braniff to testify.

[Click here to read more about Braniff's background and expertise]

Braniff testified in court that he is the executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, the largest terrorism research center in world.

"We study terrorism the way a criminologist would study homicides," Braniff told the judge at the hearing.

Prosecutors said they will have Braniff "testify as an expert witness regarding certain terrorist organizations and leaders, written and recorded materials from those organizations and leaders, and terminology, as necessary to explain statements by Omar Mateen as well as items found on [Mateen's] electronic devices."

Prosecutors indicated Braniff may also testify on the topics of terrorist organizations such as the rise and evolution of ISIL, also known as ISIS and the Islamic State.

Friday, prosecutors showed a video they said Mateen watched May 21, 2016, just weeks before the Pulse attack, which had ISIS spokesperson Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani calling for attacks on the United States during Ramadan. 

He also may testify about individuals such as terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, and the Boston Marathon bombers, among other, because Mateen mentioned those names in his various conversations with Orlando Police Department negotiators the morning of the Pulse attack.

"These are not names people would know," U.S. prosecutor Sara Sweeney said. "It would be impossible for the jury to understand."

The defense originally filed a motion in opposition, fighting to prevent Braniff from testifying, questioning his reliability as an expert.

"At present, the Government has not met that burden because its expert report does not set forth Mr. Braniff's particular experience with regards to the subject areas of his testimony," the motion filed by the defense read. 

However, after Braniff took the stand and explained his resume, the defense lawyers changed their minds. 

But Salman's attorney Charles Swift still questions why Braniff's testimony will be relevant in Salman's aiding and abetting case, asking if Braniff reviewed any evidence if Salman's engaged in any terrorism-like activities online. Braniff answered no.

"You haven't reviewed her online activities?" Swift asked. "So you know nothing about her."

Swift also expressed concerns about how much detail Braniff will get into when he discusses other terror attacks, specifically San Bernadino, which involved a husband and wife. 

"I have concern about the length to which it would go," Swift told the judge in closing.

After hearing both arguments, Judge Paul Byron ruled Braniff will be able to testify, but he has not decided on how many details Braniff will be able to discuss during trial. 

Salman's trial is scheduled to being March 1. 

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