Pulse gunman originally targeted Disney for shooting spree, prosecution claims at widow's trial
Jurors are now deliberating in the trial of Noor Salman, Mateen's wife
The Orlando nightclub shooter intended to attack Disney World's shopping and entertainment complex by hiding a gun in a stroller but became spooked by police and instead chose the gay club as his target, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Prosecutors revealed the details during their closing arguments in the trial of Noor Salman, the widow of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. Salman, 31, is accused of aiding her husband in the attack that killed 49 people in 2016. She is charged with obstruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization.
"The defendant's steps don't have to equal to her husband," assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney told jurors.
Jurors started their deliberations Wednesday afternoon.
Sweeney said Salman didn't know that Mateen was going to the Pulse nightclub on the night of the attack — she thought he was at Disney World. They two had visited Disney in the days before the attack, according to one of her statements to federal authorities.
"The target of that terrorist attack was not the Pulse nightclub," Sweeney said. "The target of the attack was Disney."
Sweeney showed a video of the Disney Springs complex that captured Mateen walking near the House of Blues club in the hours before the Pulse attack. In it, he looks behind him at police officers standing nearby.
"He had to choose a new target," she said.
Prosecutors seize on misstatements
Sweeney said Salman "knowingly engaged in misleading conduct" when she spoke to the FBI in the hours after the attack.
Prosecutors said she claimed her husband didn't use the internet in their home, but he did. She also told investigators that Mateen had deactivated his Facebook account in 2013, but investigators found that he had an account up until the month of the shooting and was friends with his wife.
According to a report earlier this month in the online publication The Intercept and based on court documents released at trial, Mateen may have subsequently landed on Pulse as a target through an internet search, potentially contradicting reports in the days following the tragedy that he had previously frequented the club.
Arguing for the defence, attorney Charles Swift said there was no way Salman knew that Mateen would attack Pulse because he didn't know he would attack the nightclub until that evening — after he went to the complex Disney Springs.
"It's a horrible, random, senseless killing by a monster," Swift said. "But it wasn't preplanned. The importance to this case is that if he didn't know, she couldn't know."
He said Salman's confession was coerced and she signed it because she was tired and feared losing her young son.
The statement said in part that "the last two years, Omar talked to me about Jihad." Swift said Salman wasn't an extremist, and thus not capable of such a discussion.
"She still looks at Hello Kitty and romance novels," he said.
Texts point to lack of knowledge: defence
Swift took the jury through the hours of Salman's life before the attack. She called a friend and her uncle in California, saying that she was coming to visit and that Mateen would be joining them.
"You know you work tomorrow," she wrote.
He responded: "You know what happened?"
She wrote, "What happened?"
Then he sent his last text: "I love you babe."
Swift said: "One person knows what's happened in this, and one person doesn't."
The defence unsuccessfully sought a mistrial earlier this week after they claimed Sweeney revealed to them for the first time, in an email after the trial began, that Mateen's father Seddique Mateen had been a confidential FBI informant for more than a decade.
Salman's legal team argued that the failure to disclose that information was a violation of their client's right to due process.
With files from CBC News