By Joey Roulette
ORLANDO (Reuters) – The widow of the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016 made statements to federal investigators after the attack that proved she knew of her husband’s plans, prosecutors told jurors on Wednesday.
But the defense attorney said Noor Salman was unaware that her husband, gunman Omar Mateen, intended to carry out the Pulse nightclub massacre on June 12, 2016.
“I wish I had gone back and told his family what he was going to do,” Salman told Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Mandolfo told jurors during his opening statement at Salman’s federal trial.
Salman made that comment right after she said she was sorry for the shooting rampage that had happened hours earlier, Mandolfo said. The prosecutor said her comment showed she had foreknowledge of the attack.
Salman, 31, faces up to life in prison if she is convicted in U.S. District Court in Orlando of aiding and abetting her husband and obstructing a federal investigation. She is the only person charged in the attack, which ended with Mateen’s death in an exchange of gunfire with police.
Salman was at home with the couple’s then-3-year-old son during her husband’s shooting spree. Defense attorney Linda Moreno told jurors Salman was unaware of her husband’s sinister plans.
“Noor was in the dark about Omar’s secret and despicable life,” Moreno said.
Moreno said the FBI did not record its interrogation of Salman and coerced her into making statements that favored the prosecution.
The trial is expected to last for a month.
According to prosecutors, Salman initially told investigators her husband acted without her knowledge but later acknowledged being aware that he was watching Islamic State recruitment videos, had purchased an assault rifle and examined three possible attack locations.
Salman’s attorneys contend the U.S. government could not show any direct links between Mateen and Islamic State before the attack and has provided no evidence that Salman aided her husband.
Salman was indicted on two charges: obstruction of justice for alleged false statements to federal investigators, and aiding and abetting Mateen in his attempt to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
Mateen, 29, opened fire shortly after the last call for drinks on the club’s popular Latin night.
Holding hostages during his standoff with police, he claimed allegiance to a leader of the Islamic State militant group before being fatally shot.
(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Orlando, Florida; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio)