ORLANDO, Fla. - In March, the Pulse gunman's widow will go to trial in an Orlando courtroom flanked by a team of attorneys fighting to defend her against federal charges.
Noor Salman is accused of aiding and abetting and obstructing justice in connection with the attack her husband Omar Mateen carried out at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016.
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Federal prosecutors say Salman knew her husband was planning on carrying out the mass shooting that left 49 people dead and dozens of other clubgoers injured. They also claimed she lied to investigators in the wake of the attack.
Three main attorneys, all with various backgrounds and expertise, will be representing Salman when her trial begins March 1 at the U.S. District Court in Orlando. Below is a look at their experience and other need-to-know information as Central Florida braces for the trial.
Who is Charles Swift?
Since 2014, Charles Swift has been the director of the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America. He has also been recognized as by the National Law Review as one of the top legal minds in the country. Before entering private practice, Swift was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy. He was forced to leave the service in 2007 after being passed up for a promotion for the second time during his 20 years of service.
Swift is most known for his work on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainee and Yemeni citizen Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism because he worked as a driver for Osama bin Laden. Swift was supposed to enter a guilty plea for Hamdan before a military commission but he decided that would be unethical and argued that the tribunal system was flawed.
Swift took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and justices agreed that current system was a violation of the Geneva Conventions as well as the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice. As a result of the Supreme Court's request, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which gave war criminals the right to habeas corpus so they could legally challenge the charges against them.
About two weeks after that legal victory in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , Swift learned that he did not receive a promotion within the Navy and would be forced into retirement. Some speculated that there were political reasons for not promoting Swift since he successfully challenged the constitutionality of Guantanamo Bay legal proceedings.
Swift went on to teach law before joining the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, a nonprofit legal fund dedicated to defending Muslims’ civil rights and civil liberties.
Who is Linda Moreno?
Linda Moreno is an attorney for the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America who specializes in the criminal defense of national security and terrorism cases. Moreno is also considered a juror expert who has served as a consultant in selecting a jury for several high-profile cases.
Like Swift, Moreno has also successfully defended a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. Mohamedou Ould Salahi was arrested in Mauritania in 2001 because the U.S. government suspected he had ties to al Qaeda. He was detained in two other prisons before being taken to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, where he was held for years without being charged with any crime. Salahi wrote in his memoir "Guantanamo Diary," which he wrote while behind bars, that he was tortured, molested and threatened while imprisoned.
Moreno and a team of attorneys argued that any confessions Salahi gave were because he was being tortured and therefore not admissible in court. A judge ruled in 2010 that there was not enough evidence to prove that Salahi was an al Qaeda supporter and ordered his release. That decision was appealed, but Salahi's 14-year imprisonment ended in 2016 when he was released from Guantanamo Bay and returned to Mauritania.
Other high-profile clients include actor Wesley Snipes, University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian and Ghassan Elashi, the chairman of the Holy Land Foundation in Dallas.
Who is Fritz Scheller?
Fritz Scheller, a graduate of University of California at Berkley, has been working as a federal defender in Central Florida since 2002 and now serves as a counselor for the Federal Middle District of Florida. In that role, he represents clients who otherwise could not afford legal representation in a federal case.
Scheller's firm focuses on cases involving appeals, federal prosecution, immigration removal proceedings, white-collar crimes, IRS tax cases and more. Scheller employs a three-pronged approach involving investigation, mitigation and litigation when it comes to defending his clients.
Most notably, Scheller defending Groveland Police Department officer Cindy Homelius who was fired and arrested after using a department credit card to buy party supplies for the department-sponsored Explorer Scout post. The charges against Homelius were dropped and the Public Employees Relations Commission ruled that the city was retaliating against Homelius because she was trying to bring a union to the department.
News 6 will be covering Salman's trial extensively online and on air. For more information on what to expect when the trial begins in March, click here, or check back at ClickOrlando.com/NoorSalmanTrial for regular updates.
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