Widow of Pulse nightclub gunman acquitted of all charges in 2016 attack

The widow of Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in the U.S. state of Florida, has been acquitted of two charges related to the June 2016 attack.

Jurors began deliberating Wednesday afternoon before returning with a verdict Friday morning.

During a demonstration outside of Pulse Nightclub on Friday, Louis Morales, 50, who frequented the club shared, "She may not be guilty, but she's not innocent".

Salman did not testify in her defense.

The FBI arrested Salman in January of past year on a charge of obstruction of justice and "aiding and abetting by providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization", according to Orlando Police Chief John Mina. She could have faced life in prison.

Ever since that day, her family has maintained that she was innocent, as well as a victim of her husband, Omar Mateen.

I am disappointed in the outcome of the trial and know that the victims and/or their families are more disappointed.

His father, Seddique Mateen, said a possible motive for the attack might have been his son's outrage at seeing two men kissing in Miami.

While the defense tried to paint Salman as completely aloof to her husband's radical behavior, an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent testified that Salman witnessed her husband purchasing a rifle and ammunition, practicing at a gun range, and watching jihadi beheading videos.

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Raising such a possibility could be viewed as an incentive for witnesses not to cooperate with investigators. He faces a raft of serious felony charges, and if convicted, faces decades in prison.

"We're very grateful to this jury and to the Orlando community", she said. "I don't know how she will make up for the last two years".

Prosecutors came out of the federal court building in Orlando to read a brief statement, saying they were disappointed in the jury's verdict, but thanked them for "their hard work in this case".

"He was not intending to go to the Pulse nightclub", Ms. Sweeney said.

Jurors asked Judge Paul Byron on Thursday for some definitions and descriptions related to the charges, some of which he provided.

During the June 12, 2016, attack at Pulse nightclub, Mateen was reported to have pledged allegiance to ISIL in a call to an emergency police hotline.

The statement has been a crucial piece of evidence in the case and a major point of contention with questions on whether the 12-page statement Salman signed was fact or fiction. She told investigators that Mateen had deactivated his Facebook account in 2013, but they found that he had an account up until the month of the shooting - and was friends with his wife.

"I'm in shock. I think that she knew that he was up to something", said Neema Bahrami, an event manager at the nightclub who survived the shooting while his best friend was killed. Those factors made her an easy target for authorities looking to scapegoat someone for the actions of Mateen, who was killed during the attack.

Between this apparent shift in the prosecution's narrative, the Global Positioning System data, and the defense's claim that Salman was the naïve and neglected wife of an unfaithful husband - who had no need or reason to seek her assistance in his crime - the jurors found reasonable doubt about her guilt after just 12 hours of deliberation. However, her attorneys contended that her statements were coerced and were false.

  • Sonia Alvarado