ORLANDO, Fla. - Friends and family described Noor Salman to the jury Monday as a peaceful person, bad at math and someone who has more in common with children than adults.
Salman, the widow of the Pulse gunman, is on trial for aiding and abetting her late husband Omar Mateen in the terror attack on the Orlando gay nightclub, and allegedly lying to the FBI.
The defense team called their first witnesses Monday after filing a motion early in the morning asking U.S. District Judge Paul Byron to call a mistrial. Salman’s lawyers learned Sunday that Mateen’s father Seddique Mateen, was a confidential FBI source from 2005 through June 2016.
Seddique Mateen is currently under an FBI investigation for sending money to Pakistan and Turkey up to a week before his son attacked Pulse killing 49 people. Mateen searched for plane tickets to Turkey before the shooting, Salman’s lawyers say.
Jurors also learned Monday that the FBI considered turning the younger Mateen into an FBI informant after they investigated him in 2013 and 2014.
Byron denied that motion Monday afternoon, saying that if there are other parties culpable in this case that is an issue to take up on another day.
“This case is about Noor Salman, not Seddique Mateen,” Byron said.
After the motion was denied, Noor Salman had her face in her palms. Before leaving the courtroom her attorneys Linda Moreno and Fritz Scheller both hugged her. Looks like Moreno was giving her some words of encouragement. — News 6 Pulse Trial (@News6PulseTrial) March 26, 2018
[REVEALED: Omar Mateen's father was FBI informant]
Those who had kind things to say about Salman provided a contrast to other witnesses who also testified Monday that Mateen took extensive steps to hide his secret relationships with other women he met online and deceive the mother of his child.
Salman’s brother-in-law Mustafa Abasin, who was married to Mateen’s sister, testified that Salman loved his son, babysitting for him many times and she wouldn’t accept any payment.
Abasin testified that because his sister-in-law didn’t drive he would often pick her up. He said when he talked with her on the car rides it was more like having a conversation with a child.
On June 12, after a full day of questioning at the FBI office in Fort Pierce, Abasin said Salman was crying and worried about her son.
Salman’s friend, only identified as Ms. Ahmed, said she had known Salman since they were both 16. The witness became emotional upon seeing Salman in the courtroom.
“Nothing harmful would come out of her,” Ms. Ahmed said.
Salman’s family member said Salman once had a job at a K-Mart in California and asked to be moved off the register, because she was uncomfortable working with money.
Another time, Ms. Ahmed said she wanted Salman to help her in school, but said Salman was not good with math, so Salman would watch Ms. Ahmed's baby while she studied.
After Noor moved to Florida with Mateen, Ms. Ahmed said they didn't talk as much, because Ms. Ahmed had four children and their interests were different.
"She wants to talk about lip gloss or the Hello Kitty T-shirt she bought," Ms. Ahmed said with a laugh.
On June 11, Salman asked Ms. Ahmed for advice because Mateen's mother was asking her to go to the Mosque for Ramadan and she didn't want to go. Ms. Ahmed testified she just told her to go and make her in-laws happy.
Laurie Jaber, who was a bridesmaid at Salman and Mateen’s wedding, said she helped Salman prepare for her driver's license test in June 2016 and that Salman had failed the written portion back in her home state of California seven or eight times.
“Noor is a wonderful friend,” Jaber said. “She always lends a shoulder to cry on.”
On the opposite end of the peaceful, immature woman described by Salman’s family and friends was her husband, Mateen, who on Monday was shown to have deceived his wife and many other women.
Mateen’s friend, only known as Nemo, testified Monday saying that he knew Mateen used him as an excuse when he was planning to cheat on Salman.
Salman told the FBI and Mateen’s family that her husband was with Nemo the night of the attack. Attorneys for the U.S. government claim this was Salman coming up with a cover story for Mateen to carry out the shooting.
Nemo told the jury Mateen, 29, would brag about the women he met online, saying they were older.
Two women Mateen had relationships with both testified under false names Monday.
The first woman said she met Mateen in late 2013 while he was working as a security guard at the entrance of her friend’s neighborhood. She said Mateen told her he had a young son and was separated from his wife.
The woman described their relationship as a “brief flirtation,” after she had broken up with her ex-fiance.
The two met up twice near Mateen’s work at a convenience store and a pizza place. Both times he was still in his uniform.
Another woman Mateen met in February 2016 on the dating website Plenty of Fish said he came to her apartment twice and the relationship was physical, but it didn’t last long, she said.
“I found out he was 29 years old, he told me he was 40,” she said, also adding Mateen said his father would not have approved, because she is Jewish.
Digital and computer forensics expert Richard Conner Jr. spoke about Mateen’s Facebook account which the gunman continuously deactivated and reactivated, sometimes several times within the same hour. Connor testified that Mateen used the social media platform “to pick up women to have sex with,” at times outright asking women for sex.
Mateen deactivated his account to hide it from potential sex partners, Connor said, which Mateen confirmed in a message to another woman.
“Why are you sending me messages if you block me?” a woman wrote in a message to Mateen on June 1, 2015.
“I don’t block you, I deactivate my account,” Mateen replied.
Connor concluded that Mateen’s Facebook profile’s normal state was deactivated, after several women confronted him with his “married” relationship status.
Mateen also had a preference for older women, his messages and relationships showed.
“Why are you so into older women? What do you have to offer? I don’t have any money,” one woman said to him on Facebook messenger.
To which Mateen said, older women have “more culture” and “younger women just like to party and pop babies like crazy.”
Salman told the FBI Mateen deleted his Facebook account. The way he left it deactivated a majority of the time would explain why she thought that, her lawyers said.
During cross examination attorneys for the U.S. government brought up messages between the husband and wife from 2014 to 2016 that would show she did know he still used Facebook.
On Tuesday the defense will continue to call witnesses. Dr. Bruce Frumkin, a false testimony expert, is likely to testify.
Ahmed Bedier, President, United Voices for America, speaks following today’s proceedings when the judge denied the motion for mistrial. pic.twitter.com/A4AiJe2RnZ — News 6 Pulse Trial (@News6PulseTrial) March 26, 2018
The government's case after Salman relies heavily on a 26-page written statement that FBI Special Agent Ricardo Enriquez wrote down for her the day of the shooting. Her defense team will undoubtedly try to discredit that statement and how it was acquired.
Salman's lawyers say their client is a scapegoat and the statement was coerced.
On Thursday, the government established that part of Salman's statement could not be true. She allegedly told the FBI she knew Mateen was going to attack Pulse, because the couple cased the club on a June 8 trip to Orlando. An FBI expert testified Thursday that neither Mateen, nor his wife could have been anywhere near Pulse on that date, according to cellphone tower data.
Government witnesses also testified that Mateen's target was one that appeared to be a last-minute decision. He Googled "Orlando nightclubs" and drove back and forth between Eve Orlando and Pulse before opening fire on the gay nightclub, cellphone records show.
On Monday, the defense’s computer forensics expert recreated Mateen’s movements on the night of June 11 into June 12 on Google maps, playing the exact directions Mateen would have heard pulled from his cellphone.
“He’s not searching for a particular club, just downtown Orlando nightclubs,” Connor said.
Mateen left the Disney Springs area after that Google search at 11:05 p.m. and was around the corner from Eve Orlando nightclub at 12:55 a.m. June 12, Connors said showing screenshots of what Mateen’s phone showed him that night.
Between 1:04 a.m. and 1:45 a.m. Mateen drove up and down the south downtown Orlando area on South Orange Avenue and some side streets between Pulse and Eve Orlando. When Mateen opened fire at the club at 2:02 a.m. he still had Google Maps open and was receiving directions to another unknown location that wasn’t Eve or Pulse, Connor said.
“Was it apparent that Pulse was his target?” defense attorney Charles Swift asked Connor.
“Not to me,” Connor said.
If the jury finds Salman guilty, the maximum sentence is life in prison.
See a recap of Monday's testimony below from New 6 reporters at the U.S. District Courthouse.
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