ORLANDO, Fla. - Noor Salman, the widow of Pulse gunman Omar Mateen, was in federal court in Orlando Thursday for a hearing to determine what evidence can be used at her trial next year.
Salman, 31, is charged with helping her husband in the attack on the Orlando nightclub last year that left 49 people dead and injured more than 50 others. In January, she pleaded not guilty to charges of aiding and abetting as well as obstruction of justice. She faces life in prison if convicted.
Salman's defense lawyers argued Thursday to suppress conversations their client had with law enforcement following the June 12, 2016, shooting, and whether that can be used against her during the trial.
Fort Pierce Police Department watch commander William Hall, who was the first officer to come in contact with Salman at the home she shared with Mateen, testified Thursday about what he characterized as "odd" behavior from Salman.
He said Salman told him that her husband was "careful with guns and would never hurt anybody," without him asking her about the shooting.
When Hall told Salman that officers from the Orlando Police Department wanted to talk to her, she replied by asking if they were taking her to Disney, according to Hall's testimony.
Salman's attorney, Charles Swift, argued that the fact that Salman wasn't searched extensively and that Hall approached her alone and allowed her out of his sight so she could change clothes is proof that officers didn't see her as a threat.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Christopher Mayo spoke on the stand Thursday about his interview with Salman. He said even before he told her about the attack or that her husband was dead, she made comments that hinted she knew what happened.
"He liked everybody, even homosexuals," Mayo said Salman told him.
When he asked her what that meant, she said Mateen "liked homosexuals because they are sympathetic to Muslims."
He said she wrote "I'm sorry I lied to the FBI" in her statement.
In cross examination, Salman's attorney Swift asked if she was ever in custody during this time, Mayo said she was not. He asked if she was read her Miranda rights and Mayo said she was advised of them by another agent.
FBI agent Ricardo Enriquez said he spoke to Salman the morning of June 12, 2016. He said in court on Thursday that two days before the mass shooting, Salman said she saw Mateen looking at the Pulse website and he said it was is "target."
"I knew at that time the attack was close," Enriquez said Salman told him.
He said Salman claimed that she and her husband took a trip to Orlando before the attack and they drove past Pulse nightclub and Mateen made a comment about, "how upset people are going to be when it gets attacked."
"I'm sorry for what happened. I wish I would go back and tell police and his family what he was going to do," Salman said in her statement to the FBI, according to Enriquez.
She ended her statement with, "I'm sorry I lied to the FBI, these are my own words."
Along with the testimony, new evidence was also presented in court Thursday.
Officials showed pictures of Mateen dead inside the club after his standoff with authorities, recordings from a victim's cellphone where Mateen can be heard speaking what appears to be Arabic and photos from inside the club.
The hearing will continue Friday morning, when Salman is scheduled to tesstify.
A separate hearing will be held in January to determine who the prosecution can call as an expert witness.
The defense filed a motion to suppress testimony from William Braniff, who the government said is an expert on “certain terrorist leaders, and terminology, as necessary to explain statements by Omar Mateen, as well as items found on Mateen’s electronic devices.”
On Tuesday, the government filed a list of witnesses they plan to call during the trial. Mateen's brother-in-law, Mustafa Abasin, was on the nine-person list. Abasin is married to Mateen's sister, Sabrina.
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