US: FBI's work with Orlando shooter's father is not grounds for mistrial in wife's case

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Booking photo Omar Marteen, the gunman in the Pulse Nightclub shooting
Image: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. (Reuse terms.)

Noor Salman, wife of Pulse Nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, was denied a mistrial Monday even as defense filings showed the father, Seddique Mateen, was a confidential informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI has since confirmed Seddique Mateen was a human intelligence asset between January 2005 to June 2016, performing several actions on behalf of the FBI.

Omar Mateen targeted the Pulse nightclub located outside Orlando, Florida frequented by the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) community on June 12, 2016. He did so as a show of allegiance to ISIS and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as stated during his 911 calls made before and during the shooting. Omar Mateen was killed after a SWAT team entered the club.

Salman was subsequently charged with aiding and abetting a foreign terror organization and obstruction of justice for her alleged knowledge of the impending attack. If convicted, Salman faces life without parole. An email, authored by Assistant US Attorney Sara Sweeney, acknowledged the relationship between Seddique Mateen and the FBI.

Noor Salman's defense submitted the following in writing to the court: "Despite the Government's email, it still has not provided the defense with any reports or documentation concerning Seddique Mateen's conduct, including his transfer of funds... There are two viable theories of defense that could have been developed … First, Omar Mateen conspired with his father, rather than Noor Salman, to commit the acts. Alternatively, the FBI's purported interviews with Ms. Salman were directed to evading the negligence they exercised with their own informant with to finding an additional culprit rather than their own informant."

All exculpatory evidence, if it benefits the defense, must be turned over to the defense per the Brady Rule. U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron aggressively addressed Federal prosecutors without the jury present about the potential violation which governs the suppression of investigation findings.

Among the missing information, were documents showing Saddique Mateen made large monetary transactions from March 16 to June 5, 2016 to Turkey and Afghanistan. Saddique Mateen's FBI handlers were tipped about his collection of between US$50,000 and US$100,000 for purposes of attacking the Pakistani government, a US ally.

In Judge Byron's decision, after reviewing Seddique Mateen's information, he stated: "This trial is not about Seddique Mateen. It's about Noor Salman."