Hearings take place ahead of trial for Pulse gunman's widow

Defense wants man's testimony, Salman's messages to Mateen as evidence

By Brianna Volz - Web producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - A court hearing for the widow of the Pulse Nightclub gunman was underway Thursday as part of a series of hearings that will take place throughout the week, just six weeks ahead of her scheduled trial.

What the defense wants
Noor Salman’s defense team worked Thursday to push new pieces of evidence into the trial, including the testimony of a man named “Nemo,” who attorneys said Omar Mateen told his wife he was going to have dinner with the night before the attack.

Defense attorneys said Salman is not using “Nemo” as a cover, but instead that Mateen often used the man when lying to his wife, according to a motion, which included the following statements:

"In investigating the Pulse Nightclub attack, the FBI interviewed Mateen's friend, "Nemo". The final interview was video-recorded. During this interview, Nemo told the FBI that Mateen would tell Salman that he was going to see Nemo, when actually, Mateen was going to cheat on Salman.”

"The defense intends to offer Nemo's testimony concerning Mateen's prior statement admitting he had deceived Ms. Salman and other family members by telling them that he was going to see Nemo. This evidence is relevant to rebut the Government's allegation that Ms. Salman aided and abetted Mateen's attack by fabricating a cover story for Mateen that he was going to see Nemo on the night of the attack and later lied to law enforcement."

Federal prosecutors say that Mateen likely did not tell his wife he was going to see “Nemo” the night before the attack because it goes against his interests and would risk blowing his cover story that he used to go meet up with women he met online.

According to the motion, Mateen met up secretly with four women and had a secret affair with one woman for seven months in 2015. 

The judge has not ruled whether Nemo’s testimony will be considered during the trial.

The defense is also working to bring in medical records from Salman’s doctor after her arrest. Her doctor would speak about her mental health capacity and records they say could prove that Salman was a victim of domestic violence. The judge has not decided yet whether to consider these pieces of evidence during Salman’s trial.

The judge ruled during the hearing that they would admit text messages Salman sent Mateen the night of the attack.

"Everything OK?" one message read.

Another mentioned that Salman and Mateen’s mother were worried about him.

The defense is arguing that the messages, which the judge agreed to admit, show Salman was ignorant about the attack. 

What the defense doesn't want
The defense also argued that it wants to throw out some pieces of evidence, including records that show Mateen and Salman spent what he makes in a year in the weeks leading up to the attack, arguing that the receipts include items that do not pertain to the crime and could be distracting.

The judge ruled that all of the spending records, including ones that show money spent on jewelry, will be allowed, but federal prosecutors must find a way not to mention Salman was on a welfare program for women and children because the judge believes it could cause prejudice and inflame the jury.

Defense attorneys are also asking for any evidence from the attack itself, such as video from inside the nightclub and 911 calls Mateen made, to be thrown out, arguing that it would be prejudicial to the jury.

What comes next
Another hearing is set to take place Friday morning. Federal prosecutors will then argue why they want terrorism expert William Braniff to testify.

Prosecutors believe it will help in their argument to prove Mateen provided support to ISIL, and that Salman knew he was watching jihadist videos online. Defense attorneys will argue against the inclusion of Braniff’s testimony. 

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